Insects as mechanical systems have been optimized for form and function over millions of years. Ants, in particular, can lift and carry extremely heavy loads relative to their body mass. Loads are lifted with the mouthparts, transferred through the neck joint to the thorax, and distributed over six legs and feet that anchor to the supporting surface. While previous research efforts have explored attachment mechanisms of the feet, little is known about the mechanical design of the neck — the single joint that connects the load path from the thorax to the head. This work combines mechanical testing, computed tomography (CT) and scanning electron microscope (SEM) imaging, and computational modeling to better understand the mechanical structure-function relation of the ant neck joint.

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