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When many people think of fire ants, they merely think of their ability to destroy everything in their path. However, due to new studies, fire ants are becoming known for a new skill: their ability to join and make a raft out of their bodies if threatened by water disaster. The exploration of this ability has provided surprising subject matter for robotics.
To make these body rafts, fire ants cling to each other at a force of 400 times their own body weight, as reported by the Canada Journal.
In order to better understand how the ants link together and keep their structure unified, scientists froze fire ant rafts and scanned them with a CT.
Along with many other interesting insights,they discovered some of the key components to success of the ant rafts was the ability of the fire ants to stay connected and yet leave space within the raft. These spaces provide room for the raft to adapt when necessary and yet stay joined.
These findings provide inspiration for how humans can create and adapt new structures in fields such as robotics. Scientist Radhika Nagpal, who works in robotics at Harvard University is excited about the implications.
“There’s lots of interesting outcomes of this work,” she states, according to Northern Voices Online,“ Imagine robots that need to construct a barrier or patch a hole during a disaster response.”
Watch the fire ants build their raft in action: