Wow! Nature is amazing. But more often than not, discoveries in the natural world end up being totally terrifying. Especially when they have to do with creatures who live in colonies of around a quarter million ants, acting as one.
You might already know that fire ants are amazing builders with their bodies. During floods, they are known to gather together as a colony and build impossibly strong rafts out of their own bodies.
They aren’t using anything to float. There’s no wood or water wings in their. They use the buoyancy of their own bodies, and crawling at a constant rate, so that none of the ones on the bottom drown.
The worst part was described by bug expert/entomologist Tim Davis: “If one of those rafts comes in contact with you, or you try to break it apart, it will likely disperse and crawl up you.”
Now scientists at Georgia Tech have discovered that these colonies of tens of thousands and, sometimes, hundreds of thousands ants can also make tall towers out of their own bodies. It’s like the raft things, but tall and on land.
It’s how they survive when they get stuck somewhere and they can’t climb out. It’s also what they would do if one of their ant-boats encountered your body.
The scientists on the study noted the architectural similarities between the ant tower and the Eiffel Tower. No, merci.
The ants in the towers are constantly falling due to gravity, but they also are climbing up at a slightly faster rate, using their friends’ bodies as structural support.
It’s impressive that ants can build such diverse and functional structures without anyone giving orders. Ant brains only have 250,000 neurons– that sounds like a lot, but for comparison, a single cockroach four times that amount, and humans have over 100 billion neurons in the brain.
The level of complexity found in such a simply wired organism makes replicating it easier and faster in the world of science. So what’s the goal? Reverse engineer how the ants are able to do this. And then build massive cooperative robot swarms to carry out tasks.
Watch the full video below: