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How Much Can An Ant Lift?

Updated on April 17, 2012

If you look at the ground during the summer months, you may catch sight of one or more ants carrying seeds or pieces of food towards their nest. The provisions are often very large compared to the ant. For an ant a grain of wheat is the equivalent of a 15 stone sack of potatoes for a child of four.

The ant could push the seed or roll it, but it prefers to lift it up with the powerful pincers that fold around its mouth-the mandibles or jaws.

The ants carrying the harvest usually have a large head and powerful mandibles.

These are serrated and keep their grip as firmly as a pair of ribbed pincers gripping a smooth tube. The animal could easily be unbalanced by this heavy weight, but its three pairs of legs with claws on the end anchor it firmly to the ground.

By arching itself on its legs it compensates for the difference in weight between its head and its abdomen.

Finally the ant boasts a muscular system completely different from a mammal's. The muscles are made out of elastic fibers and, controlled by the nervous system, can tighten or relax. Contraction is much more rapid and concentrated in insects. You need only remember that a fly's wings can beat up to between 200 and 250 times a second!

Insects do not have lungs. Air goes straight into their bodies through small holes called stigmas, and their flesh is steeped in a nutritive fluid; in this way the muscle fibers very quickly receive new supplies of energizing substances.

However, ants can tire just like people. When this occurs they drop what they are carrying. It is up to other inhabitants of the nest to finish the harvest.


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