It wasn’t long ago that we showed you a video of how ants can create floating islands out of themselves by using the surface tension of water to the advantage of their small body size and low density. The trait is believed to be a self-defense mechanism against mother nature when problematic floods, such as those that recently impacted South Carolina, threaten to wipe out the colonies, which typically live under ground.
But ants have another interesting trait, and that is that they help their worker ants to cross gaps by creating their own bridges out of their own bodies.
In a research experiment performed by researchers from Princeton University along with researchers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, army ants are seen interlocking with one another to create a bridge between two distant objects, with distant being taken into consideration that ants are very tiny and that what is not so distant to us is very distant to them.
The bridge itself is anywhere from 10 to 20 ants long, and the ants are known to help their worker ants across the gap, and then disassemble in order to reassemble where they’re going to be needed next. This is one of the qualities of the endurance of ants and their ongoing team efforts to ensure their survival by ensuring the delivery of food and goods to their colonies.
The ants’ secret is that they have little ‘interlocking’ hook spikes on their legs that are able to lock into place with that of the hook spikes on other ants. This forms a relatively stable crossing platform with very little chance of buckling. Combined with the massive amounts of bull-like strength ants are known to have for their size, keeping the bridge up until it’s no longer needed is like a piece of cake to them.
What’s more is the researchers noted that the ants are fully aware of when the bridge is no longer needed. They’ll sit and help their worker ants across until they’re no longer needed, and will then disperse after anywhere from 1-2 minutes after they’re sure they’ve helped all or most of the workers across.
"This is an elegant, quantitative study of the wonderful adaptive abilities of army ants," commented Prof Nigel Franks, who runs an ant research lab at the University of Bristol. "The army ants are such effective raiders that they deplete their prey as they go. They are here today, gone tomorrow. Using their bodies to build dynamic bridges and to cover potholes in their route makes sense to them, as opposed to spending time and energy bulldozing obstacles out of their way."
You can see a video of the army ant bridge below, as captured by the researchers, and see for yourself just how amazing this building block quality that the ants have really is: