JUL 29, 2017 7:31 AM PDT

Why You Can't Easily Drown Fire Ants

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

For many people, fire ants conjure thoughts of pain. After all, the 'fire' in the name reflects more than just their red color. Unlike their more plain cousins, fire ants inflict double pain because they can both bite with their mouths and sting with venom from their abdomen.

But physicists and engineers are intrigued by fire ants other unique characteristic: their ability to stick so closely with each other that they resemble a material. It's this ability that makes it nearly impossible for these ants to drown - in a flood, the ants link together to form a raft that floats on the water surface. And if there's a force bearing down on the live raft, the ants rearrange themselves to form air pockets so that they can breathe under water.

Physicists describe fire ants as being 'viscoelastic,' which means that as a group, they can behave both a solid and a fluid. And further investigation into how fire ants achieve this could mean great things for the field of materials physics and even robotics.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Detect Origin of Fast Radio Burst in Milky Way
NOV 07, 2020
Scientists Detect Origin of Fast Radio Burst in Milky Way
Scientists have identified a burst of cosmic radio waves- intense flashes of radio emission that last just a few millise ...
NOV 12, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Can a Chemical Be Both Nurturing and Destructive?
NOV 12, 2020
Can a Chemical Be Both Nurturing and Destructive?
On August 4, a megascale explosion almost leveled half of Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon. At the center of the negl ...
NOV 24, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Want to Keep Calm? Tap Water Might Help
NOV 24, 2020
Want to Keep Calm? Tap Water Might Help
The ongoing worldwide pandemic places the mental health of many communities on red alert. But there may be a remedy to e ...
DEC 28, 2020
Space & Astronomy
China Willing to Share New Moon Samples
DEC 28, 2020
China Willing to Share New Moon Samples
China has recovered the first new moon rock samples in decades, and from a previously unexplored part of the moon. Now w ...
MAR 26, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Iconic Bald Eagles are Thriving
MAR 26, 2021
Iconic Bald Eagles are Thriving
Once dangerously on the brink of extinction, bald eagle populations are thriving throughout the lower 48 states of the U ...
JUN 24, 2021
Space & Astronomy
European Space Agency to Launch Satellite Made from Plywood
JUN 24, 2021
European Space Agency to Launch Satellite Made from Plywood
Modern spacecraft are typically made out of carbon fiber composites. Now, however, the European Space Agency has announc ...
Loading Comments...