Munk has been lugging specially designed wind tunnels into the Amazonian rain forest since 2007. With these vertical wind tunnels, researchers have been able to capture, on video, the exact movements that allow the ants to control their glides.
The key to directed aerial descent is in the back legs and rear end. C. atratus stretches its legs out, raises them and then lowers its "gaster," the posterior body segment - i.e., the butt. Voila! The ant has just become an aerodynamic, perfectly controlled backward-glider.
"It's fairly similar to what human skydivers do; the principles are similar," Munk said. "It creates a mini parachute out of your own body, heavy parts low, and light parts high."
But how do these ants see where they're going? As it happens, directed aerial descent is only possible in daylight, and so far, research suggests that C. atratus is attracted to light-colored vertical objects. According to Munk this makes sense, given that many of the trees in the Amazon rain forest have trunks covered in white lichens.