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These Desert Ants Gallop at a Blistering 108 Body Lengths Per Second

Saharan silver ants (Cataglyphis bombycina) were already on the list of extreme species because of their unique ability to tolerate the heat of the desert in midday. A new study of the ways they've adapted to the Saharan environment describes their amazing ability to run.

Around noon each day in the Sahara Desert, silver ants emerge from their underground nests. Despite this being the hottest part of the day, they come out to scavenge dead insects, which are most likely to drop dead when sand temperatures can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). The ants have to be quick, though. Their prey is scarce, and they have lots of desert to search.

Just how quick these iridescent arthropods can be, and how they achieve those speeds, is explained for the first time today in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Saharan silver ants can travel at 108 body lengths a second, the researchers found. This makes them one of the fastest known running species, bested only by the California coastal mite and the Australian tiger beetle.

To illustrate how fast that is, 108 body lengths per second is the equivalent of a human running more than 400 miles per hour. Read how these ants do it at Discover magazine. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen)

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