|MadSci Network: Zoology|
What is an ant’s speed in proportion to a human? Believe it or not, this is a really tough questions that enters into all sorts of issues on the appropriateness of scaling, what scaling method to use, and what features are you allowing to change. As a biological problem, size changes are not trivial issues. There are important biological reasons why ants do not grow as large as humans. Science fiction movies can be fun, but a human sized ant would crush itself under its own body weight – its exoskeleton would not be able to support the ant. So, I could cop-out and say that a human sized ant wouldn’t be able to move at all – the speed would be zero! But, let’s look at this in a more fun way. I don’t know how fast ants can move, so I’m going to reverse the question and work on the speed of an ant sized human. First, I should point out that similar issues would be involved, and a human – that looked like a human – would have trouble staying alive if it were ant sized. But enough with the pedantic ramble, and start with some assumptions A typical human is 150 cm tall and travels about 75cm with each step taking about 1 step per second. That means that the typical human moves at about 2700 meter per hour. (These number are not accurate, but they are close. I choose them to make the math easier). Now assume that the typical ant is 1 cm long. Following strict proportions means that the ant sized human would travel 1/150 as fast or 18 meters per hour, which would be about 0.5 cm per second. Not very fast. (Not by editor: A typical speed of a large ant is 300 meters per hour - but this varies of course much with the species of ant. J Ziesmann) If you want to get into the real biomechanics of these issues, which would tell you why a real experiment like this would never work, you might want to consult these books: McGowan, C. (1999) A Practical Guide to Vertebrate Mechanics. Cambridge University Press Alexander, R. McNeill (1989) Dynamics of Dinosaurs & Other Extinct Giants. Columbia University Press. If you want to learn much about ants: Bert Hölldobler and EO Wilson (1990) The Ants, Springer Verlag, Berlin
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