Thursday, April 28, 2011

The incredible floating fire ant - The Washington Post

So bound, an ant raft can survive for months.

Engineers studying animal oddities now report that together, the ants aren’t just stronger. They’re floatier. Airtight, even.

“Water does not penetrate the raft,” said Nathan Mlot, a mechanical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology and lead author of the ant-raft report published in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academies. Even the bottom layer of ants stays dry, he said.

Engineers, Mlot went on to explain, think the rafting behavior might aid the quest for new waterproof materials and offer lessons for robotics research.


Check the link above for the full story. The gist of it is that fire ants (nasty little buggers) have learned to survive harsh conditions by working together. In this case, they actually create a floating raft by holding onto each other. In this way, they can ride out storms and floods that would clear out other animals.

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