The long, long, long list of useful ant applications to human life may soon grow even longer. A recent study reported in Scientific American reveals that a certain species of ant, Camponotus sanctus, may be the secret to hibernation at room temperature. The greater mouse tailed bat (Rhinopoma microphyllum) shifts to almost exclusively eating the fatty queens of this ant species when they emerge for the nuptial flight, the mating event between males and queens. This targeted consumption by the bat precedes a five-month hibernation in caves at room temperature, during which they neither eat nor drink. The timing indicates that something about the fat in these ants may enable this relatively novel behavior.
The article ends on this note:
We used to think about hibernation as something related to freezing temperatures, but mouse tailed bats definitely change this perception: hibernation is possible at room temperature and it is probably also related to diet composition. Induction of hibernation in humans is still impossible and would be very important for long journeys into space and to “freeze” people suffering from still incurable diseases. The ability of the mouse tailed bat to hibernate at room temperature makes it a great model organism to understand hibernation and perhaps one day apply it to humans.
In other words, the likely key to this hibernation secret – ants – may make time travel and deep space flight possible. If this comes to fruition, we all know where the first destination would be: The Ant Nebula.