Row, row, row your ... ant raft?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.
When red fire ants in Brazil are hit with a flood, they band together, forming a raft to ride out the storm. Raft sails for weeks, without falling apart or sinking. What's their trick?
Meet David Hu, from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He discovered that about half the ants formed the raft itself--and most remained permanently submerged. The others were passengers--that, curiously, never got wet.
How? Linking legs, claws, and jaws, the ants performed a group hug--pulling together with tremendous force. Ants are naturally water resistant, so their living lifeboat is like a tightly woven disk of Gore-Tex.
Meanwhile, each of the submerged ants had an air bubble near its face, like a tiny life preserver that doubled as a scuba tank. These prevent ants from drowning--and the raft from crumbling. And line the bottom with buoys, increasing buoyancy by 75% percent.
It'll make for a whole new nursery song! The ants go swimming 500 by 500? Oh well, we'll work on it.
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