Compass in the Ant’s Eye




We need guides to show us the direction when we travel to another country, or another city. In particular, when we do not know the place we are going to, we definitely must have a compass and a map. Map shows us where we are, and the compass shows us which way to go. We find the way by using these tools, and consulting other people so we do not get lost. Have you ever wondered how other creatures find their way? Have you ever thought how an ant seeking food in the desert returns to its nest?


Black desert ants inhabiting the Mediterranean coasts of Tunisia are among those creatures who build their nests in the desert.

These ants are very good at finding their way in the vast desert, and getting back to their nests without the help of a compass or a map.


As the sun rises, temperatures in the desert reach up to 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit). The ant leaves its nest to find food in the heat of the day. Frequently halting and turning around itself, it follows a devious route within an area that may be 200 meters (655 feet) away from the nest. You may see this route on the map. But do not think that the ant will get lost because of these zigzags. Once it finds a source of food, the ant follows a straight course and returns to the nest. With respect to their sizes, this journey of the ant may be compared to a man’s returning to his starting point taking a straight course after wandering 35-40 kilometers (22-25 miles) away from that point in the desert.



How is it that an ant successfully does a task that is virtually impossible for a human?


It cannot be that the ant finds its direction by looking at objects. Signs and way-marks such as trees, rocks, rivers or lakes which help one find the way are quite rare in the desert. There is only sand all around. Even if there were such signs, it would not make any difference, since it is not possible for an ant to keep these signs in mind, to memorize where they are, and to use them while finding its way. Thinking about it this way, one can better understand the significance of the task that the ant performs. The ant can perform this difficult task thanks to the special body structure it has been given.


There is a special direction-determination system in the ant’s eyes. This system that Allah (swt) placed in the ant’s eyes is more advanced than mechanical devices that determine direction.

Being able to perceive some rays that we cannot, the ant can determine directions, and know where north and south are. Thanks to this ability, it is not difficult at all for the ant to estimate where its nest is, and to return to it.


Human beings have lately become aware of the characteristics of light. However, the ant has known and used a characteristic of light, which was unknown to human beings, since it was born. Certainly, such a perfect structure as the eye of this ant cannot be attributed to random coincidences. The eyes of the ant must have been so since it came into existence. Otherwise, the ant could not have returned to the nest in the desert heat, and could not have survived. Indeed, eyes of all desert ants have been equipped with this system since the first day they came into existence. Allah (swt), the All-Knowing, created these eyes for them.

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The Wonders of Ants

fire-ant-nestDespite having very tiny bodies, ants are able to carry loads up to 5,000 times their own body weight. But how do they manage this?

The ant-mechanics

Research and experiments have revealed a biomechanical secret behind this amazing strength of ants. The joint in ants’ necks was observed to possess a complex and highly integrated mechanical system. Research showed that it is the joints in the neck were the main factor in ants’ abilities to lift many times their own body weights.

Engineers from Ohio State University constructed three-dimensional models of this life form’s internal and external anatomy in order to better understand the strength of the ant’s neck and its upper limits. This made it possible to examine the mechanical functions, structural design and material qualities of the ant species Formica Exsectoides.

A single joint, consisting of soft tissue, joins the hard exoskeleton in the ant’s head and thorax chest regions. When carrying food or some other object, the ant bears the entire weight on its neck joint. The ant can apply the greatest strength when this joint in the ant’s neck is straight.

Carlos Castro, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State says, “Loads are lifted with the mouthparts, transferred through the neck joint to the thorax, and distributed over six legs and tarsi that anchor to the supporting surface.”

Experts think that great progress can be made someday in developing ultra-light robot technology and that devices of use to man can be built by using this immaculate property bestowed on ants by Allah (swt). The way that a tiny ant is able to bear many times its own body weight is a proof that ants, like all other living things, are under the control of Allah (swt), the Creator of the world, at all times.

“…There is not a moving (living) creature but He has grasp of its forelock. Verily, my Lord is on the Straight Path (the truth).” (Hud 11:56)