Aside from being one of the most annoying and infuriating creatures on the planet, fire ants can be pretty cool. They have incredible strength and move very cohesively as a group, which has garnered recent attention from physicists.
A group from the Georgia Institute of Technology put together a video presentation for last month’s American Physical Society meeting. In it, groups of fire ants were shown to be able to flow through a funnel like a thick, syrupy liquid. They were also able to be pressed down and rebound like a rubbery solid.
More than just a parlor trick, studying how the ants move within the group could help the field of robotics by allowing small pieces to self-assemble into larger structures. Because a disturbed group of ants can also quickly return to their position, they could also influence the next generation of self-healing materials.
[Header Image: Maggie Corley, aka flickr user Nile Red. "more balls of fire ants..." Used via CC BY 2.0