Biology

Fire Ants’ Building Skills Are Lit

Jul 13, 2017 at 1:54 PM ET

We all know that ants are very good at working together.

They can form life rafts to save one another and support massive weights on their backs to bring food back to their colonies.

What we didn’t know is that fire ants can also form towers to escape dangerous situations or find food.

Researchers don’t think the ants are communicating to coordinate these construction, however.

They just follow a set of rules baked into their bodies like a muscle memory.

The ants try to find an empty spot on top, and then another ant follows.

The structure grows wider as it gets taller to help support the added weight.

As you can see, the king of the hill doesn’t stay on top for long because the ants keep sinking into the pile.  So new ants climb up to maintain the height…and voila it starts to resemble a certain Parisian landmark.

Scientists say the findings could one day help program robot swarms to work together to build structures or even conduct rescues.