Come Sail Away
To survive flooding, fire ants have a genius defense mechanism: they build rafts from their own bodies to float on the water.
Brant Kelly via Flickr
You might even remember the enormous colonies that drifted through the floods of Hurricane Harvey a few years back.
For a recent paper in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, researchers observed a colony of fire ants to better understand how they stay afloat.
Wagner RJ, et. al./Journal of the Royal Society Interface
They found that the ants take turns holding the raft together or staying dry by running atop the bodies of their fellow colony members.
And while we often see the ants collect in a big circle, they’re capable of shapeshifting to create bridge-like tendrils that protrude from the main raft.
The clever building patterns of these ants could inspire human-made engineering projects and swarm robotics.
And for the rest of us, they’ll remain a marvel — and perhaps an object of disgust as well.
Float on, little fellas.
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Josh Rigling via Giphy