In the midst of the chaos surrounding the historic flooding in South Carolina, the fire ant is weathering the storm with a little help from its friends. Small 'islands' of clinging fire ants have recently been spotted floating freely through the floodwaters:
Fire ants' ability to resist water has been studied extensively. In a 2011 study from the Georgia Institute of Technology, researchers determined that the ants use their mandibles and claws to link bodies, forming a sort of 'waterproof fabric' that protects even the bottom layer of ants from drowning (See video here.)
"Although the raft is porous and its base is below the water level, none of the ants are submerged, or even get wet. Instead, the ants at the base of the raft push against the water's surface and shape it around them into a bowl without breaking the surface tension," writes Nature's Lizzie Buchen.
Remarkably, an entire island can be self-assembled in less than two minutes.
"Self-assembly and self-healing are hallmarks of living organisms," study lead author David Hu said in a news release. "The ant raft demonstrates both these abilities, providing another example that an ant colony behaves like a super organism."
Article originally appeared on Discovery's blog Discovrd.