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Stilts for ants make case for pedometer

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10:07am, July 18, 2006

Gluing pig bristles to ant legs to lengthen their strides or trimming the insects' legs to shorten their steps distorts their judgments of distance, say researchers.

The distortions offer the first experimental evidence in any animal of a built-in odometer based on strides, says Harald Wolf of the University of Ulm in Germany.

Wolf and his colleagues studied the ant Cataglyphis fortis of the Sahara. Even though the landscape looks flat and featureless, foragers move this way and that until they find food and then make a more direct trip home.

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