You never know where the inspiration to learn might come from. Take, for example, cat food pieces that appeared to “float” away from a cat’s bowl…

When scientist Ehud Fonio saw that longhorn ‘crazy ants’ — known for their erratic movements — were zigzagging in a less than efficient manner to cooperatively carry the food away, it inspired his team at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel to conduct a study of the behavior. The results:

They found that the ants rotate jobs, alternating between carrying the load and “scouting out” the scene. If any scout ants notice their loaded down comrades drift off course, they grab hold and stubbornly push the disoriented group back on track.

The individuals come with the solution,” says [study co-author] Ofer Feinerman. “The group gives it the muscle power…”

Each leader’s role is short-lived and may last only 10 to 15 seconds, explains Feinerman. After that, the leader loses its sense of direction and becomes one of the crowd, and other carriers detach to scout.

Feinerman’s diagram of the ants’ movements illustrates how this plays out:

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We love learning from ants. How do the ants work (or not work) together where you live? Read more about longhorn ‘crazy ants’ at National Geographic: We Just Learned How ‘Crazy Ants’ Ever Get Anything Done.

Watch these two videos next: The Sticky Feet of Ants & Cockroaches and The Incredible Physics of Ants.

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