Sahara Desert Ant

Facts & Identification

Latin Name

Cataglyphis bicolor

Appearance

The Sahara Desert ant has long legs and a reddish-orange head and thorax. Its abdomen is darker, taking on more of a brown appearance.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

The aptly named Sahara Desert ant is well suited for its climate in the Sahara Desert, which is located across northern Africa. Out of the three known ant genera capable of withstanding extreme heat, the Cataglyphis bicolor is the most heat tolerant. Even outside of the ant category, the Sahara Desert ant is one of the most heat-tolerant creatures in the world. It is capable of withstanding a body temperature above 140 degrees Fahrenheit and surface temperatures up to 178 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Sahara Desert ant has long legs that elevate the insect’s body away from hot Saharan sand. These long legs are for more than just height—they’re speedy, too. They have been clocked at moving 3.3 meters per second, which prevents the ant from frying. The faster the ant moves, the less exposure it has to the sun during scavenging. The Sahara Desert ant also pauses on dry grass to release excess body heat.

Adding to the insect’s remarkable abilities, the Sahara Desert ant navigates its hot terrain by intuitively measuring its angle from the sun to learn how far it can safely venture from its burrowed nest. It can only withstand the harsh temperatures for a few minutes each day, but its heat tolerance allows it to find food while predators are seeking shelter from the sun. Additionally, Sahara Desert ants may count their steps away from the nest so they may safely trace their way back in time to prevent overheating.

Reproduction

Ants have four stages of development, starting as eggs, moving to larvae, then pupae and finally fully developed adults. Sahara Desert ants reproduce in typical ant fashion with a complete metamorphosis.