Terminator Ant Survives Sahara With Silvery Armor | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 93 Issue 25 | p. 33 | Concentrates
Issue Date: June 22, 2015

Terminator Ant Survives Sahara With Silvery Armor

Animal Defense: Desert-living ant forages in blistering heat with hairy protection that reflects sunlight
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Materials SCENE, Biological SCENE, Environmental SCENE
Keywords: silver ant, sun protection
[+]Enlarge
The Saharan silver ant has hairy armor that reflects sunlight and dissipates heat.
Credit: Rüdiger Wehner/ U Zurich (Photo)/ Science (Micrographs)
Photo and micrographs show the silver ant.
 
The Saharan silver ant has hairy armor that reflects sunlight and dissipates heat.
Credit: Rüdiger Wehner/ U Zurich (Photo)/ Science (Micrographs)

In the Sahara desert’s blistering sun, many insects desiccate into crispy corpses. These are devoured by one bug that isn’t destroyed by the heat: Looking like mini insect Terminators, silver ants (Cataglyphis bombycina) can forage in temperatures as high as 125 °F (52 °C) because they are protected from the sun by armor that reflects sunlight and helps dissipate heat (Science 2015, DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3564). The armor is composed of a dense array of hairs that look like pointy, triangular rods, reports a research team led by insect neurobiologist Rüdiger Wehner of the University of Zurich and Columbia University physicist Nanfang Yu. They say it is the first example of an animal that can “control electromagnetic waves over an extremely broad range of the electromagnetic spectrum,” from the visible to the mid-infrared. “This biological solution for a thermoregulatory problem” could inspire biomimetic coatings that provide passive radiative cooling, the team notes. They are already working on a silicon mimic but have no immediate plans to chemically characterize the unusual protein-chitin composite armor, Wehner says. So a chemist is more than welcome to do so, he adds.

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society

Leave A Comment

*Required to comment