Catherine Ledner—Getty Images

This Is How Ants React in Space

Mar 31, 2015

Ants aboard the International Space Station showed a surprising ability to regain their footing as they slipped and tumbled through zero gravity, according to a new study that released an ant colony in space just to see what would happen next.

The ants were ferried on a supply rocket to the International Space Station in 2014, where researchers observed how different species might adapt their search habits to a radically new environment.

"The ants showed an impressive ability to walk on the surface in microgravity, and an even more remarkable capacity to regain their contact with the surface once they were tumbling around in the air," researchers wrote in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Researchers say the results could offer deeper insights into how ants conduct searches of new terrain without centralized commands, an area of particular interest in robotics, and also an area of comedic interest first explored by a prescient episode of the Simpsons:

The Most Beautiful Space Photos Of 2013

The vortex of Saturn's north polar storm is seen in this false-color image taken from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The eye is an estimated 1,250 miles across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour.
The vortex of Saturn's north polar storm is seen in this false-color image taken from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The eye is an estimated 1,250 miles across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour.SSI/JPL-Caltech/NASA
The vortex of Saturn's north polar storm is seen in this false-color image taken from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The eye is an estimated 1,250 miles across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour.
The aurora borealis flare over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in North Slope, Alaska, on Aug. 28, 2013. The brilliant summertime sky-show was the result of what may be the peak of an 11-year solar cycle.
The Witch Head nebula, as seen by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Astronomers believe the billowy clouds of the nebula, where baby stars are brewing, are being lit up by massive older stars.
Nearly 200, 000 light-years from Earth, lies the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. As the Milky Way's gravity gently tugs on its neighbor's clumps of diffuse dust and gas, they collapse to form new stars. In turn, these light up the ambient gas in a kaleidoscope of colors.
A flat-topped mesa is located in the center of Hebes Chasma on Mars and rises to a similar height as the surrounding plains. Exposed within the walls of the mesa are layers of sediments deposited by wind and water. Numerous grooves are etched into the mountain, suggesting the material is weak and easily eroded.
The Dasht-e Lut salt desert in southeast Iran, as seen from space. It's often called the "hottest place on Earth," and with good reason. The highest land surface temperature ever recorded was in 2005, when NASA's Aqua satellite recorded a reading of 160ºF.
A huge, billowing pair of gas and dust clouds are captured in this stunning NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the supermassive star Eta Carinae.
Orion nebula's center, a cloud of gas and dust known more prosaically as M42.
The Soyuz TMA-10M blasts off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on Sept. 26, 2013, carrying Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryazanskiy and Oleg Kotov and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins to the International Space Station (ISS).
Four RS-25 engines undergoing a hot-fire test, will power the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), America's planned heavy-lift launch vehicle. Formerly known as the space shuttle main engine, the RS-25 will be tested beginning in 2014 at NASA's Stennis Space Center.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex on Nov. 18, 2013.
A burst of material leaps off the left side of the sun in what’s known as a prominence eruption. This image combines three images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured on May 3, 2013, at 1:45 pm EDT.
Generations of stars, seen in an infrared portrait from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, in the star-forming region, W5. The oldest stars can be seen as blue dots. Younger stars line the rims of the cavities where the old ones are nestled, and some can be seen as pink dots at the tips of the elephant-trunk-like pillars. The white knotty areas are where the youngest stars are forming. Red shows heated dust, while green indicates dense clouds.
A new view of the famous Horsehead Nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in infrared wavelengths. The nebula, shadowy in optical light, appears transparent and ethereal when seen in the infrared, represented here with visible shades.
Three nanosatellites, known as Cubesats, are deployed on Nov. 19, 2013 from a Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (SSOD) attached to a robotic arm on the International Space Station.
On July 19, 2013, NASA's Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn's shadow and photographed the planet and its rings, seven of its moons, and, in the background, the blue speck that is Earth. The image, released on obtained November 13, 2013, was painstakingly assembled from 141 mosaic-like pieces. It spans about 404,880 miles (651,591 kilometers) from one side to the other.
The colors of Mercury, the solar system's innermost planet, are enhanced in this image, based on data from NASA's Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft.
Prominent patches of wind-blown dust, possibly mixed with volcanic ash, radiate from Becquerel crater and into a neighboring crater on Mars. The streak of dust following a radial path likely traces a gentle topographic depression.
Sept. 22, 2013, the autumnal equinox, marks the beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere, but the seasonal harvest begins early in the harsh continental climate of eastern Kazakhstan. By Sept. 9, 2013, when the Landsat 8 satellite acquired this image, several fields were already bare. Others were dark green with pasture grasses or ripening crops.
The Caribbean Sea, as seen from the international space station on Aug. 13, 2013.
The Noctis Labyrinthus region of Mars, perched high in the Valles Marineris canyon system, as seen on Sept. 26, 2013. The image shows bright rimmed bedrock knobs, as well as two types of windblown sediments.
The unmanned U.S. commercial cargo ship Cygnus is seen approaching the International Space Station on Sept. 29, 2013. Cygnus flew itself to the International Space Station, completing the primary goal of its debut test flight before Station supply runs begin in December.
Two small islands had a big impact on the skies over the Pacific Ocean, disrupting clouds in a way that created a paisley pattern 175 miles long.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station photographed the Pavlof Volcano on May 18, 2013. The volcano jetted lava into the air and spewed an ash cloud 20,000 feet high.
A dark cloud where new stars are forming along with a cluster of brilliant stars that have already emerged from their dusty stellar nursery. This formation is known as Lupus 3 and is about 600 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Scorpius.
The annual Perseid meteor shower at Chapel of Garioch, near Aberdeen, Scotland, on Aug. 12, 2013.
This image combines Hubble Space telescope observations of the M 106 galaxy with additional information captured by amateur astronomers Robert Gendler and Jay GaBany.
Saturn and its rings, created from images obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Oct. 10, 2013. The mosaic was created from 12 image templates with red, blue and green filters.
Comet ISON photographed on April 10, 2013, by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope when the comet was 394 million miles from Earth.
A supermoon rises behind the Washington Monument, on June 23, 2013, in Washington, D.C. This year the Supermoon was up to 13.5% larger and 30% brighter than a typical Full Moon is. This is a result of the Moon reaching its perigee—the closest that it gets to the Earth during the course of its orbit.
The vortex of Saturn's north polar storm is seen in this false-color image taken from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The eye

1 of 30
All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.