Communities of ants can change their shapes and actions based the environments they find themselves in to ensure survival, a study has found. During floods they self-assemble to form rafts and can also build bridges to cross obstacles.

The study, released by researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in the USA, found that ants are actually liquid-like and solid-like simultaneously.

During an experiment, a large group of ants was put into a rheometer – a device that tests the solid or liquid response of materials – and the ants would adjust their viscosity based on the rate at which the machine was spinning. When a speed of 100 r/min was applied, they took on a lifeless state. The ants’ speed of movement would increase as the rotation was slowed. They were at their fastest at a rotational speed of 0,0001 r/min.

“It’s not unlike ketchup,” said Alberto Fernandez-Nieves, Associate Professor at the school of physics at Georgia Tech in the USA, and co-author of the study. “The harder you squeeze, the easier it flows. But with ants, this happens more dramatically than with ketchup.”

In the video above Associate Professor David Hu, the study’s second author, explains their findings.

Source: Georgia Tech

Images and video credit: Alberto Fernandez-Nieves and David Hu/Georgia Institute of Technology