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Discovery Magazine 5/1/2006

Nature’s Weightlifters

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

After playing flag football in the backyard with all his friends, Steven was extremely hungry. When he walked into the kitchen his mom asked him if he would like to go grab his favorite food—pizza! However, when they arrived at the restaurant, Steven was not content to just sit down and eat a few slices of pizza. Instead, he walked right up to the Pizza Shack building, strapped a belt around it, and then hoisted the entire building onto his back. For a few steps he was wobbly and looked like he might fall under all that tremendous weight, but eventually he got into a rhythm and walked two miles back to his house—with the Pizza Shack on his back! Sound crazy? Definitely—especially when you consider that Hossein Rezazadeh set a new world record at the 2004 Olympics and won a gold medal for lifting only 580 pounds. We know that there is a limit to how much a human can lift without suffering from something like a heart attack. And yet, if Hossein were as strong as an ant, he could very well have lifted 10,000 pounds over his head! That’s right, researchers have documented forest ants carrying 30-40 times their body weight.

It is not uncommon for ants to walk several feet carrying 10-20 times their body weight. (Now if that distance does not impress you, remember that it would take several steps for a small ant just to cover the distance of one foot.) When the load is too large for the ant to carry on its back, oftentimes it will move the object by dragging it backwards. If that still doesn’t work, then the ant will solicit help from other ants which then work together as a team. Ants did not evolve this amazing ability to carry heavy weights and work in teams—rather they are a special creation of God. Scientists believe that ants may be the most numerous type of animal on Earth. The next time you strap on that heavy backpack and head off to school, remember one of God’s incredible creatures—the mighty ant!

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