Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ants Form Live & Kicking Life Rafts

After briefly analyzing the biomechanics of many animals, engineers are now turning their tools to some pesty creatures, the fire ants.
Engineers from Georgia Institute of Technology observed the notoriously and tough ants more closely than ever before and uncovered that they have a rough skin with hairy surface which makes it difficult for water to pass in, bit like how duck feathers resist water because of their small bumps. This can be advantageous discovery for those who are working on new and high efficiency waterproof materials.
Whenever fire ants see a risk of drowning, they engage in a amazingly effective survival mechanism. Involving a group of ants(sometimes reaching thousands) stack up, lock their limbs & jaws, and form a live and kicking life raft that can survive for months.
A single fire ant, when put in water, will struggle and flail. A detail observation, however, reveals a thin layer of air along the body of the ant. But if multiple of them come together, proximity pushes each ant’s individual air bubble against the next ant’s. This giant bubble  then protects the whole raft and its precious cargo, including the queen, off springs and the food.
This ant raft doesn't only hold strength but it also gives more buoyancy. Even the bottom layer of ants doesn't get wet. This unique ability of this species  likely evolved because they belong from a place that frequently faces floods, amazons of Brazil and Argentina.
This discovery is not only fruitful for people hunting for better waterproof materials, according to robotics engineers the fire ants can be helpful in designing blueprints for a system of programming many simple robots to work together, which can help accomplish greater objectives than one large clumsy robot.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. Very cool stuff.