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Data from: On heels and toes: how ants climb with adhesive pads and tarsal friction hair arrays

Citation

Endlein, Thomas; Federle, Walter (2016), Data from: On heels and toes: how ants climb with adhesive pads and tarsal friction hair arrays, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.vg446

Abstract

Ants are able to climb effortlessly on vertical and inverted smooth surfaces. When climbing, their feet touch the substrate not only with their pretarsal adhesive pads but also with dense arrays of fine hairs on the ventral side of the 3rd and 4th tarsal segments. To understand what role these different attachment structures play during locomotion, we analysed leg kinematics and recorded single-leg ground reaction forces in Weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) climbing vertically on a smooth glass substrate. We found that the ants engaged different attachment structures depending on whether their feet were above or below their Centre of Mass (CoM). Legs above the CoM pulled and engaged the arolia (‘toes’), whereas legs below the CoM pushed with the 3rd and 4th tarsomeres (‘heels’) in surface contact. Legs above the CoM carried a significantly larger proportion of the body weight than legs below the CoM. Force measurements on individual ant tarsi showed that friction increased with normal load as a result of the bending and increasing side contact of the tarsal hairs. On a rough sandpaper substrate, the tarsal hairs generated higher friction forces in the pushing than in the pulling direction, whereas no such effect was found on the smooth substrate. When the tarsal hairs were pushed, buckling was observed for forces exceeding the shear forces found in climbing ants. Adhesion forces were small but not negligible, and similar on both substrates. Our results indicate that the dense tarsal hair arrays produce friction forces when pressed against the substrate, and help the ants to push outwards during horizontal and vertical walking.

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