RSS

Monthly Archives: March 2013

FACT # 256

Fascinating Facts about Ants

In many ways, ants can outwit, outlast, and outplay humans. Their complex, cooperative societies enable them to survive and thrive in conditions that would challenge the individual. Here are 10 fascinating facts about ants that just might convince you they’re superior to us.

1. Ants are capable of carrying objects 50 times their own body weight with their mandibles.
Ants use their diminutive size to their advantage. Relative to their size, their muscles are thicker than those of larger animals or even humans. This ratio enables them to produce more force and carry larger objects. If we had muscles in the proportions of ants, we’d be able to heave a Hyundai over our heads!

2. Soldier ants use their heads to plug the entrances to their nests and keep intruders from gaining access.
In certain ant species, the soldier ants have modified heads, shaped to match the nest entrance. They block access to the nest by sitting just inside the entrance, with their heads facing out like a cork in a bottle. When a worker ant returns to the nest, it will touch the soldier ant’s head to let the guard know it belongs to the colony.

3. Certain ant species defend plants in exchange for food and shelter.
Ant plants, or myrmecophytes, are plants with naturally occurring hollows where ants can take shelter or feed. These cavities may be hollow thorns, stems, or even leaf petioles. The ants live in the hollows, feeding on sugary plant secretions or the excretions of sap-sucking insects. What do the plants get for providing such luxurious accommodations? The ants defend the plant from herbivorous mammals and insects, and may even prune away parasitic plants that attempt to grow on the host plant.

4. The total biomass of all the ants on Earth is roughly equal to the total biomass of all the people on Earth.
How can this be?! Ants are so tiny, and we are so big! But scientists estimate there are at least 1.5 million ants on the planet for every human being. Over 12,000 species of ants are known to exist, on every continent except Antarctica. Most live in tropical regions. A single acre of Amazon rainforest may house 3.5 million ants.

5. Ants sometimes herd or tend to insects of other species, like aphids or leafhoppers.
Ants will do just about anything to get the sugary secretions of sap-sucking insects, called honeydew. To keep the sweet stuff in close supply, some ants will herd aphids, carrying the soft-bodied pests from plant to plant. Leafhoppers sometimes take advantage of this nurturing tendency in ants, and leave their young to be raised by the ants. This allows the leafhoppers to go raise another brood.

6. Ants will enslave other ants, keeping them captive and making them do work for the colony.
Quite a few ant species will take captives from other ant species, forcing them to do chores for their own colony. Some honeypot ants will even enslave ants of the same species, taking individuals from foreign colonies to do their bidding. Polyergus queens, also known as Amazon ants, raid the colonies of unsuspecting Formica ants. The Amazon queen will find and kill the Formica queen, then enslave the Formica workers. The slave workers help her rear her own brood. When her Polyergus offspring reach adulthood, their sole purpose is to raid other Formica colonies and bring back their pupae, ensuring a steady supply of slave workers.

7. Ants lived alongside the dinosaurs.
Ants evolved some 130 million years ago during the early Cretaceous period. Most fossil evidence of insects is found in lumps of ancient amber, or fossilized plant resin. The oldest known ant fossil, a primitive and now extinct ant species named Sphercomyrma freyi, was found in Cliffwood Beach, NJ. Though that fossil only dates back 92 million years, another fossil ant that proved nearly as old has a clear lineage to ants of present day. This suggests a much longer evolutionary line than previously thought, leading scientists to estimate the appearance of ants on Earth as somewhere around 130 million years ago.

8. Ants started farming long before humans.
Fungus farming ants began their agricultural ventures about 50 million years before humans thought to raise their own crops. The earliest evidence suggests ants began farming as early as 70 million years ago, in the early Tertiary period. Even more amazing, these ants used sophisticated horticultural techniques to enhance their crop yields. They secreted chemicals with antibiotic properties to inhibit mold growth, and devised fertilization protocols using manure.

9. Some ants form “supercolonies,” massive communities of ants that can stretch for thousands of miles.
Argentine ants, native to South America, now inhabit every continent except Antarctica due to accidental introductions. Each ant colony has a distinctive chemical profile that enables members of the group to recognize each other, and alerts the colony to the presence of strangers. Scientists recently discovered that massive supercolonies in Europe, North America, and Japan all share the same chemical profile, meaning they are, in essence, a global supercolony of ants.

10. Ants follow scent trails laid by scout ants to gather food.
By following pheromone trails created by other ants from the colony, foraging ants can gather and store food efficiently. A scout ant first leaves the nest in search of food, and wanders somewhat randomly until it discovers something edible. It will then consume some of the food and return to the nest in a straight, direct line. It seems these scout ants can observe and recall visual cues that enable them to navigate quickly back to the nest. Along the return route, the scout ant leaves a trail of pheromones, special scents that will guide her nestmates to the food. The foraging ants then follow her path, each one adding more scent to the trail to reinforce it for others. The workers will continue walking back and forth along the line until the food source is depleted.

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 15, 2013 in General Facts

 

Tags: ,

FACT # 255

Here are a few facts about women in the work place and in education as International Women’s Day is observed on Friday

There has been an International Women’s Day since the early 1900s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialised world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.

* SOME HISTORY:

— International Women’s Day (IWD) was honoured the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19, 1911. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination.

SOME FACTS:

HEALTH:

* On average, women live six to eight years longer than men globally.

* In 2007, women’s life expectancy at birth was more than 80 years in 35 countries, but only 54 years in the WHO African Region.

* Girls are far more likely than boys to suffer sexual abuse.

* Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in high- and middle-income countries

* Essentially all (99 percent) of the half a million maternal deaths every year occur in developing countries.

* Breast cancer is the leading cancer killer among women aged 20-59 years in high-income countries.

* Globally, cardiovascular disease, often thought to be a “male” problem, is the leading killer of women.

SOURCE: WHO 11/2009

SMOKING:

* Women comprise 20 percent of the world’s 1 billion smokers.

* Of the more than 5 million people who die each year from tobacco use, approximately 1.5 million are women.

* Worldwide, of more than 600,000 deaths caused every year by second-hand smoke, 64 percent occur among women.

* If current conditions continue, tobacco use will kill 8 million people each year by 2030, of whom 2.5 million will be women.

* Three-quarters of these deaths would be women in low- and middle-income countries. Each of these deaths would have been avoidable.

SOURCE: WHO 2010

EDUCATION:

* The ratio of girls to boys enrolment has steadily improved, reaching 97 girls per 100 boys at primary level, 96 girls per 100 boys at secondary level and 108 women per 100 men at tertiary level in 2008.

* Women make up nearly two thirds of the worlds 759 million illiterate adults.

* Access to university-level education remains highly unequal, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In these regions, only 67 and 76 girls per 100 boys, respectively, are enrolled in tertiary education. Completion rates also tend to be lower among women than men. Poverty is the main cause of unequal access.

* On average, across 121 countries with available data, women account for 29 percent of researchers, and only 15 percent of countries have achieved gender parity.

SOURCE: UNESCO/WORLD BANK 2010

POLITICAL PARITY:

* Between 1995 and 2010, the share of women in parliament, on a global level, increased from 11 per cent to 19 per cent a gain of 73 per cent, but far short of gender parity.

* Parliamentary elections in 2009 contributed to rising gains for women in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, where 29 per cent and 25 per cent of the renewed seats went to women, respectively. But 58 countries still have 10 per cent or fewer female members of parliament.

* Progress in women’s representation in the executive branches of government is even slower. In 2010, just nine of 151 elected heads of state and 11 of 192 heads of government were women. Globally, women hold only 16 per cent of ministerial posts.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 8, 2013 in General Facts

 

Tags:

FACT # 254

 Here are some interesting, but true facts, that you may or may not have known.

1. The Statue of Liberty’s index finger is eight feet long.
2. Rain has never been recorded in some parts of the Atacama Desert in Chile.
3. A 75 year old person will have slept about 23 years.
4. Boeing 747’s wing span is longer than the Wright brother’s first flight. The Wright brother’s invented the airplane.
5. There are as many chickens on earth as there are humans.
6. One type of hummingbird weighs less than a penny.
7. The word “set” has the most number of definitions in the English language; 192 Slugs have four noses.
8. Sharks can live up to 100 years.
9. Mosquitos are more attracted to the color blue than any other color.
10. Kangaroos can’t walk backwards.
11. About 75 acres of pizza are eaten in in the U.S. everyday.
12. The largest recorded snowflake was 15 Inch wide and 8 Inch thick. It fell in Montana in 1887.
13. The tip of a bullwhip moves so fast that the sound it makes is actually a tiny sonic boom.
14. Former president Bill Clinton only sent 2 emails in his entire 8 year presidency.
15. Koalas and humans are the only animals that have finger prints.
16. There are 200,000,000 insects for every one human.
17. It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery had in it to begin with.
18. The world’s largest Montessori school is in India, with 26,312 students in 2002.
19. Octopus have three hearts.
20. If you ate too many carrots, you would turn orange.
21. The average person spends two weeks waiting for a traffic light to change.
22. 1 in 2,000,000,000 people will live to be 116 or old.
23. The body has 2-3 million sweat glands.
24. Sperm whales have the biggest brains; 20 lbs.
25. Tiger shark embroyos fight each other in their mother’s womb. The survivor is born.
26. Most cats are left pawed.
27. 250 people have fallen off the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
28. A Blue whale’s tongue weighs more than an elephant.
29. You use 14 muscles to smile and 43 to frown. Keep Smiling!
30. Bamboo can grow up to 3 ft in 24 hours.
31. An eyeball weighs about 1 ounce.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 4, 2013 in General Facts

 

Tags: