Ants Create Life Raft, Teach Us All a Lesson on Surviving

Next time you are walking down the sidewalk and see a huge mass of ants, stop and take a minute and observe these tiny little creatures. They are truly amazing at what they do in life . They work 24 hrs a day at doing the one thing they know best.-to survive! If only the human population could learn from these little creatures, we may just live a little longer..

The central intelligence of ants – the way ant colonies organize themselves without a leader and get things done – continues to amaze scientists and science writers alike. Back in 2003, Deborah Gordon, a Stanford biologist, gave a whole TED Talk called “How Do Ants Know What to Do?,” which sheds light on how ants can form stunningly complex, leaderless systems. Then, several years later, RadioLab continued to mull over Gordon’s fascinating research in one of its very first episodes.

Now we get this great bit of video. It comes to us via researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and it shows how ants, when placed in water, can form a completely watertight raft in under two minutes.Scientists have revealed how the insects avoid mass drownings in the rainforests by clinging to one another to form huge rafts from their bodies. The remarkable survival strategy belongs to South American fire ants, whose rainforest homes are subject to regular flooding.As soon as water starts trickling into their nest, the ants spring into action, evacuating their home and drifting along en masse, looking for higher ground.

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Researcher Nathan Mlot, a PhD student, said: ‘It doesn’t matter if you have part of a colony, or the entire colony, all of the rafts are watertight.’But in nature, it is better if the entire colony becomes part of the raft, not just for the strength of the raft, but because ants are social creatures and need to be part of the colony to survive.’ It is thought the ants survive on ‘provisions’, including parts of other insects, taken from their nests.The queen, and her young are also carried on board and kept safe and dry during the voyage. However, the adhesion process falls apart in soapy water, with lack of water pockets making raft construction impossible. The researchers said that human shipbuilders could learn a thing or two from the humble ant. They said: ‘Overlooking its diminutive size and shortcomings in soapy solutions, the ant raft has attractive traits with respect to man-made flotation devices. It simultaneously provides cohesion, buoyancy and water repellency to its passengers.’ It can be constructed quickly, in approximately 100 seconds, without any additional equipment.‘ It can accommodate thousands to millions of passengers with zero casualties. But, perhaps most strikingly, the ant raft is self-assembling. Many of these benefits are due to the ant’s small size. ‘At the scale of millimetres, ants have great strength, high speed and the ability to trap air pockets when submerged, which in turn makes their rafts water repellent.’ The fire ant, or Solenopsis invicta, is native to Brazil, but has crept into the southern states of the U.S. in recent years and has also made its way to Australia. Bites causes pain, blistering, headaches and nausea and can be fatal.

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Posted by Jay White on Apr 29 2011. Filed under SCIENCE. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Ants Create Life Raft, Teach Us All a Lesson on Surviving”

  1. yea but

    i thought of this article the other day as i have been observing ants (also millions) killing and hauling the dead back inside their den.. its been an all out war for days and its great as ive been worrying of them working their way to the kitchen.

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