Can Ants Die From Falling?

An ant won’t die from falling as its terminal velocity is very small. This allows them to hit the ground way slower than the pace at which a human or a heavier object will hit the ground.

Also, their strong exoskeleton makes sure that their internal organs don’t suffer any damage from the shock.

Can Ants Die From Falling

The magnitude of the damage imparted during a fall starts increasing with the increase in body size and weight of an organism. Smaller organisms suffer little to no damage even after falling from a considerable height.

Let’s take a deeper look at this topic to determine why smaller animals like ants won’t face any significant damage from a fall whereas a larger animal like a human or an elephant will be heavily injured from that same fall.

Would an Ant Die if it Fell off a Building?

In most likely scenarios, an ant won’t die even if it fell off a high skyscraper. This is because of two key aspects:

  • Owing to the small body size the terminal velocity of ants is extremely low which means that even upon impact from a tall height, the ant body won’t take any damage.
  • The ants have their skeleton on the outside rather than on the inside, unlike most mammals. This structural characteristic further helps them in this regard.

Read More: Do Ants have Blood?

Will the Ant Die if it Reaches Terminal Velocity?

Terminal velocity as per Britannica can be defined as

“Steady speed achieved by an object freely falling through a gas or liquid”.

So the lower the weight and size of an object, the lower will be its terminal velocity. This further means its point of impact on the ground will be less devastating. If the object is a living organism, this will imply that its chances of survival will be higher.

Let’s take a human as an example. During the free-fall stunt of skydiving, the human body roughly falls towards the earth at a terminal velocity of about 200 km/h (120 mph approx.). However, the terminal velocity can further increase with the change in body orientation.

But if you take an ant and let it fall from the same height as that of the human, its terminal velocity will be somewhere around 6.4 km/h as per the University of Illinois.

This will mean that as the ant terminal velocity is way less than that of the human owing to its body weight and size, it won’t get hurt even on direct impact with the ground, whereas the human will need the help of a parachute to survive the free fall.

In short, as the weight of the ant is quite low, air resistance won’t allow gravity to pull it towards the ground at a faster pace. So it will hit the ground quite slowly. This slow impact further saves them from any significant damage.

This is where things get interesting, if the ant is placed on a heavier object, say a platform or scale of considerable weight, and then it is made to undergo a freefall. The gravity that will work on the heavy platform carrying the ant will be large and it will lead to the generation of an extremely higher terminal velocity.

This will mean that upon impact with the earth’s surface, along with the platform, the ant will probably get squashed.

How does the Exoskeleton Protect the Ants Against a Long Fall?

Along with the low terminal velocity, the strong exoskeleton of ants is another reason why even after a long fall it can just move onto its destination as if nothing has happened.

There are basically two kinds of skeletons seen in the higher organisms, an exoskeleton (where the skeleton is present outside the body, present commonly in invertebrates) and an endoskeleton (where the skeleton is located within the body, its presence is mostly found in the body of vertebrates).

Ants have a strong exoskeleton made of chitin which protects them from all kinds of adversities. The exoskeleton is multilayered which helps them to fend off predator attacks and in lifting heavyweights.

In fact, the main goal of the exoskeleton is to protect the soft organs of the organism from any kind of danger. Surviving steep falls is one of the many dangers it can tolerate.

Does it Hurt the Ants to Fall?

The current evidence suggests that (like most invertebrates) ants lack pain receptors which means that they may not perceive pain in the manner we perceive it.

Vertebrates have a complex set of the nervous system in place which allows them to have many processes which are completely absent in the invertebrate body owing to their smaller structures and simpler nervous system.

Ants are considered to have a limited amount of cognitive abilities. Cognitive ability is directly related to pain perception. This means higher animals have developed cognitive abilities in place which allows them to feel pain when it goes through a steep fall and damages its body.

But in the case of ants, it lacks the required neuroanatomy it needs to have in place to feel any kind of pain.

So do they suffer from any pain after falling from a multi-storied building?

In short, no they don’t feel pain even after falling from a steep height.

Why?

Well, firstly their body doesn’t get damaged owing to the low terminal velocity, and secondly, their exoskeleton protects the body and acts as a shock absorber.

Lastly, even if it suffers some form of disturbance due to the fall as it doesn’t have an evolved nervous system, it cannot perceive any pain.

Read More: Do Ants Drink Water?

FAQ

Can an Ant Survive a Fall from the Empire State Building?

An ant can indeed survive a fall from the Empire State Building. As its terminal velocity is very low owing to its small size and low body weight, it won’t suffer any significant damage even after hitting the ground.

Heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects, this is because of the terminal velocity which slows down the fall of lighter objects.

Also, many ants (queen and male ants) can fly and can just fly away.

Conclusion

Bodyweight, shape, and size play a key role in studying the degree of damage an object can face after falling from a high place.

So can ants fall to death? No, this is because smaller animals have a competitive advantage in this regard. The smaller the organism, the lesser will be its weight hence lesser will be its terminal velocity and ultimately its overall damage upon impact.

After it reaches a certain terminal velocity it is likely to stay that way for the rest of the fall time as the air resistance won’t allow the gravity to pull it any faster than this. So this slow falling speed in turn ends up saving their life.

The strong exoskeleton of the ants also helps in protecting their body from the instant shock they receive after surviving the steep fall.

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