Although organisms obey the same physical laws as inanimate objects the evolutionary implications of these laws are often neglected. Physical factors influence the fitness value of traits and play an important role in the course of evolution. These are the areas of investigation that interest us.
Antlion larvae dig sandpits to catch their prey, and, according to a new study, they rely on the physics of granular materials to do so. The antlion digs in a spiral pattern (bottom), beginning from the outside and working its way inward. As it digs, it ejects larger grains and triggers avalanches that cause large grains to fall inward. This leaves the walls of the final pit lined with small grains, which have a shallower angle of repose and will slip out from under any prey that wander in. The subsequent avalanche will carry the victim to the antlion lying in wait at the center of the pit. (Image credits: antlion larva - J. Numer; antlion digging - N. Franks et al.; research credit: N. Franks et al.; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)