Natural Sensors: Ants and Climate Change

Natural Sensors: Ants and Climate Change,

There’s an old Anglo-Saxon adage that goes, “When ants fortify their abode, clouds will unleash their rain.” These minute creatures have evolved over eons, honing their sensitivity to detect atmospheric ions, solar polarization, and magnetic and pressure fields.

Ants and Climatic Phenomena

This astonishing aptitude of ants might pave the way to predicting diverse and devastating natural events like earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and downpours.

This enigmatic behavior of ants captivated Heriberto Vélez Garza, a dedicated Physics student at UANL. Driven by curiosity, Vélez Garza dove into his research.

“My study honed in on the physical variables that influence behavior. I aimed to discern how this insect mechanics could be translated into an electrical circuit, akin to a biosensor,” he shared.

Understanding Natural Sensors

Throughout his research, Vélez Garza, in his ninth semester at the Faculty of Physical-Mathematical Sciences, unraveled the intricacy of these natural sensors. Moreover, he grasped how these systems might dovetail into human constructs, leading to enhanced preparedness for abrupt environmental shifts.

He reflected, “While humans are sensitive to certain environmental fluctuations, insects, through my research, emerged as stellar change detectors. My ambition is to craft a circuit that can pinpoint climatic shifts, forecasting atmospheric phenomena.”

This profound scientific delve sprouted from a discourse with his mentor, Francisco Hernández Cabrera. Together, they mulled over the prospect of harnessing insects to forecast storms and hurricanes.

Their collaboration culminated in a lauded study titled, “Characterization and wave-mechanical analysis in the stridulatory organ of Atta Mexicana.”

This research garnered Vélez Garza the accolade for best student work at the XLIV National Entomology Congress 2009, hosted in San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur.

Ecology and the Intricate Insect Behavior

With the project underway, the team sought presentation opportunities and founded the Mexican Society of Entomology Congress. “Though surrounded mostly by biologists, my physics background lent me a distinctive lens.

It was a fulfilling venture, representing my university honorably and relishing San José del Cabo’s pristine beauty and diversity,” Vélez Garza mused.

Francisco Hernández, a specialist in Electronic Systems from the Faculty of Physical-Mathematical Sciences, had met Heriberto five semesters prior.

Together, they discerned that eusocial insects, such as ants, can detect minute physicochemical variations and react to looming environmental shifts.

Hernández remarked, “Heriberto has rendered impeccable work; we now have preliminary results detailing how these ants respond to external stimuli. This interaction is pivotal in understanding the nature and behavior of these insects.”

Strides in Climate Prediction

Historical records showcase how certain insect behaviors can hint at climatic changes. “Watching a trail of leaf-cutter ants can foreshadow a climatic shift,” noted Hernández Cabrera.

Such shifts can be foreseen days, weeks, or even months ahead. This evolutionary prowess, molded over millions of years, is what Vélez Garza and his mentor aspire to harness.

“Our aim is to employ what nature has tested and tailor it to predict natural events,” added Hernández Cabrera.

The Future of Atmospheric Physics

With a promising trajectory ahead, Vélez Garza intends to devote his career to atmospheric physics. His ongoing research will lay the groundwork for his thesis, and he aspires to create a weather station capable of predicting environmental shifts. The research is still unfolding.

“We have a lucid understanding of how ants communicate and the signals they emit within the colony. These insects possess an advanced perceptual system that can detect shifts in pressure, temperature, humidity, and the molecular makeup of their surroundings,” pointed out Francisco Hernández.

The recognition from the Mexican Society of Entomology has further galvanized Vélez Garza’s drive. “Our study isn’t anchored merely in superficial observations. We’ve diligently delved into research, seeking variables that formalize the study,” Vélez Garza articulated.

Wonders of the Ant World

An endangered ant will emit a distinct sound to alert its comrades. This communication, along with other behavioral patterns, proves that an ant colony functions as a superorganism.

Human interaction with the ecosystem has diminished our inherent ability to anticipate natural events, underscoring the significance of natural sensors, like ants.

We extend our profound gratitude to Lizbet García Rodríguez from the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon for her invaluable contribution to this article.