Biology Question #3718

özgür o?uz, a 30 year old male from Yata?an/Mu?la asks on November 28, 2006,

How can an ant hold up a weight which is 50 times more heavy than ant's own weight?

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on December 11, 2006

The explanation is based on geometry. Namely that muscle strength inscreases in as the geometric square of body size, but body mass increases by the geometric cube. The forces that a muscle can produce are proportional to its cross-sectional area (length squared), while body mass is proportional to volume (length cubed). If an ant is one centimeter long, and it grows to ten centimeters, it's strength would increase by 100, but it's mass would increase by 1000. So it would be ten times less strong than when it is 1 cm long. So an animal's ability to generate force gets greater the smaller it is. This geometric truth explains why an ant can famously lift 50 times its body weight

There's a good explanation with diagrams at the Flying Turtle science education website.

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