Comparing inclined locomotion in a ground-living and a climbing ant species: sagittal plane kinematics

Original Paper


Formicine ants are able to detect slopes in the substrates they crawl on. It was assumed that hair fields between the main segments of the body and between the proximal leg segments contribute to graviception which triggers a change of posture in response to substrate slopes. The sagittal kinematics of two ant species were investigated and compared on different slopes. Cataglyphis fortis, a North African desert ant, is well known for its extraordinary sense of orientation in texturally almost uniform habitats, while Formica pratensis, a common central-European species, primarily uses landmarks and pheromone traces for orientation. A comparison of these two species reveals differences in postural adaptations during inclined locomotion. Only minor slope-dependent angular adjustments were observed. The largest is a 25° head rotation for Cataglyphis, even if the slope is changed by 150°, suggesting dramatic changes in the field of vision. The trunk’s pitch adjustment towards the increasing slope is low in both species. On all slopes Cataglyphis achieves higher running speeds than Formica and displays greater slope-dependent variation in body height. This indicates different strategies for coping with changing slopes. These specific aspects have to be reflected in the ants’ respective mode of slope perception.


Climbing Cataglyphis Formica Inclined locomotion Sagittal kinematics 

List of symbols


Slope of the substrate


Speed parallel to the substrate


Individual length of the alitrunk (thorax)

vrel = vabs/lT

Relative speed


Perpendicular distance between substrate and centre of mass (body height)

hCOM = habs/lT

Relative distance between substrate and centre of mass


Typical fluctuation of the centre of mass perpendicular to the substrate


Angle between substrate and alitrunk axis


Angle between caput (head) and alitrunk


Angle between caput and substrate


Angle between alitrunk and gaster (abdomen)


Angle between gaster and substrate


Gravitational acceleration


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science of Motion, Institute of Sport ScienceFriedrich-Schiller-UniversityJenaGermany

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