Fire ants can create a life raft out of their own bodies to survive a flood and save the colony, according to a study.
The research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) studied the fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) of South America where they regularly have to deal with flooding.
Ants are well known for their group intelligence and that mentality of the collective works in the construction of the floating raft.
They clutch onto each other with their jaws and claws according to David Hu of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. The researchers threw between 500 and 8,000 ants into water at a time and they quickly gathered and formed a tortilla-shaped structure within minutes.
According to the authors, about half of the colony went underwater to build a platform to carry the rest of the ants.
Thousands to millions of passengers can be transported without one of them dying. The formation of air trapped under the rafts is likely to increase buoyancy and prevent the ants in the bottom layer from drowning. The fire ants can spend long periods in this swimming formation before colonizing other areas.