Ants may not seem special at first glance, but fire ants in particular have a special ability. They’re able to form shape-shifting clusters that combine to create unsinkable rafts that are held ogether by constantly breaking apart. That’s right, swarms of the ants connect in vast groups to float across water, sometimes forming large rafts the size of dinner plates. Read more for a video and additional information.
These ants evolved to form rafts to survive the tropical wet season in their native Amazon rainforest. Entire colonies were then able to escape flooding mounds in seconds, mobilizing in these rafts and floating safely to their next destination. They can now be found across the southern USA, Australia, the Caribbean and some parts of southern Asia.
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Imagine thousands of people linking their arms together, but everyone has six arms instead of two, and all of their limbs have tiny hooks and adhesive pads on them. That’s why fire ants can do such dynamic restructuring,” said David Hu at the Georgia Institute of Technology.