Natures wonders: Saharan ants survive heat (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Wednesday, April 13, 2016, 22:20 (1188 days ago) @ David Turell

Another study on these ants, showing why the shape of their hairs reflect heat:

"The body hairs of the Saharan silver ant cause total internal reflection of light to make the ants almost ten times more reflective, preventing overheating and yielding their silver sheen...


"The Saharan silver ant is one of the terrestrial living organisms best-adapted for high temperatures, and can forage in the desert even when temperatures exceed 50 degrees Celsius. It has previously been shown that its dorsal body hairs are responsible for its silver color and help prevent overheating. However, the details of the hairs' optical properties had not been elucidated.

"The authors of the present study used a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) to examine the ant hairs and trace the path of incoming light rays. They also compared normal 'hairy' ant samples with ants that had been shaved, measuring how light was reflected and how quickly ants heated under simulated sunlight.

"The researchers found that hairy ants were almost ten times more reflective than shaved ants, and were able to stay up to 2 C cooler under simulated sunlight. They also confirmed that the triangular cross-section and corrugated surface of each hair act like a prism to reflect light, where the light rays entering each ant hair undergo total internal reflection, bouncing back off the bottom plane of the hair instead of transmitting through it. This mirror effect gives the ant its bright silver sheen and reduces heat absorption from sunlight, preventing the ant from overheating.

"Most arthropods have cylindrical or plate-like body bristles, so these results may be specific to this ant species. However, the authors state that this study improves our understanding of the Saharan silver ant's unusual color and ability to survive in the desert heat."

Comment: My usual question. If the hairs did not develop their shape quickly, how did the ants survive the heat to conduct their lives, while the shape was refined?

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