Ants do have muscles. Muscles play a crucial role in the movement and locomotion of the majority of the arthropods including ants.
They also play a significant role in food digestion, excretion, self-protection, respiration, and a variety of other important bodily functions.
Ants are regarded as one of the strongest animals on this planet in terms of their relative size.
Let’s take a deeper look at the reason the role their body muscles play in contributing to their brute strength.
What are Muscles?
Muscles are a particular biological system present in the majority of the higher animal species which plays a crucial role in their survival and in promoting better movement.
It is a contractile tissue which means its contraction helps in movement. Its major function is to produce motion.
Movement plays a crucial role in ensuring the survival of an organism. It allows an organism in:
- Food Procurement
- Locating a suitable place for habitat
- Avoiding life threats
- Finding a suitable mate
And in a whole lot of other activities.
Muscle cells convert the chemical energy which is obtained from food consumption into mechanical energy.
Humans generally have three kinds of muscles:
Ants and other insects contain striated muscles. This is the only type of muscle they have. The striated muscle is also known as the skeletal muscle as it remains attached to the body skeleton.
What is the Ant Muscular System?
The Ant muscular system can be divided into two parts
- Skeletal Muscles
- Visceral Muscles
The role of the skeletal muscles is to move a selective part of the skeleton without affecting the other parts. The microtubules help in the attachment of the muscular cells with the skeleton.
The visceral muscles form a multi-tissue layer and play an important role in forming a protective cushion around the vital organs including the heart, reproductive organs, and the digestive system.
Owing to the small structure and variations in the composition of their body fluid the ant muscular system is significantly quite different from the vertebrate muscular system.
They have limited space within which they can operate, so their muscles, even the ones similar to the vertebrates are smaller in size. The motor neurons control all kinds of muscle contraction in the system.
Ant vs Human Muscular Systems
|Ant Muscular System||Human Muscular System|
|The quantity of nerve tissue available is limited. So the number of motor tissues responsible for muscle movement is also quite limited.||The volume of nervous tissue available is vast.|
|The muscles are directly attached to the exoskeleton.||The muscles are attached to ligaments and cartilages. They are not directly attached to the endoskeleton.|
|Here the muscle’s structure and function are more focused upon faster movement and locomotion. Along with that the muscles also help in providing the organism with superior strength.||The muscle plays an important role in supporting the skeleton along with playing a part in movement and locomotion.|
|Ants can lift things about 50 times their own weight.||Humans are nowhere near lifting the weight of such magnitude owing to their larger shape and size.|
Role of the Ant Muscular System
1. Fast and Superior Movement
This is undoubtedly the most important function of the ant muscles.
The three pairs of jointed legs are moved by intrinsic and extrinsic muscles. These muscles give them the ability to move around swiftly and also enable them to swim.
The appendicular muscles, allow moving the appendages as a single structure.
The flight muscles are the only reason some specific kinds of ants can fly. The flight muscles allow rapid contraction and it helps the organism to escape from threats and to look for a habitat efficiently. The dorsal-ventral muscles, known as the indirect flight muscles also contribute acutely in flight.
2. Closing and Opening of the Spiracles
Spiracles are openings on the ant body that allows gas exchange to take place. The muscle contraction and relaxation helps in controlling the full opening and the partial opening of the spiracles as per the need of the body.
Just like all organisms, ants need to have an effective digestive system in place that will break down the food to extract the nutrients. This whole process of digestion needs a wide range of muscles to work in tandem.
Food is carried within the pharynx via the action of the cibarial muscles.
The visceral muscles allow peristalsis which plays a key role in moving the food deeper into the digestive tract. Peristalsis is nothing but the contraction of the muscles that starts occurring from the esophagus and continues throughout the gastrointestinal tract.
After the filtering process, the sphincter muscles help in moving the excretory waste out of the body.
4. Biting and Carrying
The mandibles are jaw-like parts found in most insects and other members of the phylum Arthropoda. They help in:
- Cutting the food
- In carrying food or other items from one place to another
- To fight against predators or oftentimes members of the same species.
Hence the muscles located in the mandibles play an important role in driving all these activities.
Why are Ants so Strong?
This is a question almost every human being has found themselves asking at some point.
Even though there is not a significant difference in the muscle structure between the ants and other organisms, their ability to lift heavier stuff is just off the charts!
They don’t have any special muscle that gives them this superhuman ability. It’s actually their smaller size that allows them to have such strength.
Body size is inversely related to strength. So if the body size increases, the strength of the organism will decrease. If the size of ants doubles or triples, their relative weight carrying ability will decrease. This is because the surface area of the organism will increase along with its volume.
For ants, because they are so tiny, their surface area is much larger in comparison to their body volume. So this allows them to lift items that are about 50 times their body weight.
Along with this, their skeleton is located on the outside, which is also a big contributing factor in their brute strength.
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Muscles make up almost all the major activities of ants. From escaping from danger, looking for suitable habitat, gathering food, reproduction, digestion, muscles play an important role in all.
Muscles are one of the reason behind their extreme strength along with their small size.
There are some similarities of the ant muscular system with the vertebrate muscular system, but there are loads of differences as well. A wide number of adjustments in the muscle structures happened in course of evolution to suit their small structure.
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