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Last Updated: Saturday February 20 2010 13:46 GMT

Weight-lifting ant pic wins prize

The winning photo - Credit: Dr Thomas Endlein, University of Cambridge/PA Wire

A picture of an ant carrying 100 times its own body weight has won first prize in a science photography competition.

The photo shows an Asian weaver ant hanging down from a glassy surface holding a 500 mg weight in its jaws.

It was taken by Dr Thomas Endlein, from the University of Cambridge, who was investigating the sticky feet of ants and other insects.

"Ants can change the size and shape of the pads on their feet depending on the load they are carrying," he said.

"If they have to carry heavy loads they increase the contact area, and when they need to run they decrease it."

The image came first in the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council science photo competition, winning Dr Endlein £700 in vouchers.

Clever glue

Dr Endlein, who works in the zoology department at the university, said his research could help scientists develop better glues.

"The pads on ants' feet are self-cleaning and can stick to almost any type of surface," he said.

"No man-made glue or adhesive system can match this.

"Understanding how animals can control their adhesive systems should help us come up with clever adhesives [glues] in the future."