Another day, another blurring of the lines between reality and fiction. There's a decent chance you’re one of the millions of people who’s watched the viral video of ants marching around a speaker that’s blasting AC/DC in a "death spiral”. We hate to break it to you, but the video is fake.
The post (below) is the handiwork of video-editing TikToker Gabriel Benício. After sharing the original video this week – which racked up almost 12 million likes and over 90,000 comments in a day – he posted another video explaining how he made the clip using slick video editing techniques.
Don’t be dismayed if you were duped, many others thought it was real too (including myself, if I’m totally honest).
“ITS NOT REAL?!,” said one of the top comments on Gabriel's follow-up video.
“I thought it was real 😭😭,” another comment reads.
“The fact that people didn’t see it wasn’t real makes me worry for the future,” said another.
It’s a convincing clip because some species of army ants do perform this strange behavior. An ant mill is a natural phenomenon that occurs when a group of ants run in a densely packed circle, continuously following one another in an endless loop. It’s also known as a death spiral or ant death circle as the insects can eventually die of exhaustion if the loop isn’t broken.
Like most screw-ups, death spirals are essentially caused by a breakdown of communication. When army ants go out on a mission to forage and hunt for food, they communicate their movement patterns through pheromone trails. Each traveling ant leaves behind a trail of chemical signals that other ants follow.
Under certain circumstances, however, the message of the pheromones can become lost. Instead of following one another toward a target, they simply follow the ants in front. Those ahead, however, are doing the same. Like a dog chasing its tail, they end up going nowhere but round and round in circles.
Ant mills were first described by American naturalist William Beebe in the 1920s who observed a circling colony of ants that reportedly spanned 365 meters (1,200 feet) in circumference. It’s not perfectly clear how the phenomenon occurs in natural settings, although scientists have been able to induce artificial death spirals in a lab.
Rest assured, this won’t be the last time a viral sensation turns out to be computer-generated fakery. At least in this instance, the video's creator was transparent about the process and clearly showed how he produced the clip.