Scientists explore how fire ants build rafts to adapt in a very wet environment
Credit: Hungtang Ko
SEATTLE, November 26, 2019 — Fire ants build living rafts to survive floods and rainy seasons. Georgia Tech scientists are studying if a fire ant colony’s ability to respond to changes in their environment during a flood is an instinctual behavior and how fluid forces make them respond.
Hungtang Ko and David Hu will present the science behind this insect behavior, focusing their discussion on how the living raft changes size under various environmental conditions at the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics 72nd Annual Meeting on Nov. 26.
The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) can optimize its ability to repel water by linking its body together with tens of thousands of its peers to build massive floating colonies.
“We think the response is an active process. Fire ants are able to sense the change in force when different fluid conditions are applied,” Ko said.
The researchers found different fluid behaviors, such as vortexes, could change the size of the fire ant raft in several ways. They discovered rotation of water can inhibit exploratory behaviors of individual fire ants, while centrifugal motion does not influence the colony.
“Our current hypothesis is that they explore less, because they need to form a stronger bond with their neighbors. We are still working on testing the hypothesis,” Ko said. “We think the independent response in individuals is enough in leading to the system-level deformation that we observe.”
Stronger physical bonds between individual fire ants lead to durable and safer rafts. The individual ant’s ability to respond to environmental changes is crucial to the sustainability of their raft and the survival of the colony.
The session, “Shrinking spinning fire ant rafts,” will be presented at 10:31 a.m. Pacific (U.S.) on Tuesday, Nov. 26 in Room 613 as part of a session on biological fluid dynamics and collective behavior.
Main meeting website: https:/
Meeting technical program: http://meetings.
Invited talks: http://meetings.
Hotel information: https:/
GALLERY OF FLUID DYNAMICS
At the Annual Meeting, The Gallery of Fluid Motion will consist of posters and videos submitted by attendees illustrating the science and beauty of fluid motion. More information can be found here: https:/
We will grant free registration to credentialed journalists and professional freelance journalists. If you are a reporter and would like to attend, contact email@example.com. We can also help with setting up interviews and obtaining images, sound clips or background information.
LIVE MEDIA WEBCAST
A press briefing featuring a selection of newsworthy research will be webcast live from the conference on Monday, Nov. 25. Times and topics to be announced. Members of the media should register in advance at https:/
The Division of Fluid Dynamics of the American Physical Society, established in 1947, exists for the advancement and diffusion of knowledge of the physics of fluids with special emphasis on the dynamical theories of the liquid, plastic and gaseous states of matter under all conditions of temperature and pressure. For more information about DFD, visit https:/
The American Physical Society (APS) is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world.