Monday, 30 June 2014

Ant Rafts Inspire Robot Designers

Fire ants. Image courtesy of Stephen Ausmus, Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

David Hu, a mechanical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and his colleagues published an interesting study in the Journal of Experimental Biology on how ants build rafts.

According to Nature news,

Hu and his team found that the ants had grabbed hold of one another with adhesive pads on their legs, which they stretched out to create pockets of air. They also tended to orient themselves perpendicularly to one another, distributing their weight and creating a light, buoyant structure. The formation seems to take advantage of the ants’ different sizes, with smaller ants slotting neatly in between larger ones to add more connections. Each ant averaged 14 connections to fellow ants.”

The research also has a biomimicry perspective, as the Nature news article suggests that the ants’ raft-building strategy could inspire robot designers to construct better robots.

In other words, the ants’ social networking solution speaks of intelligent design, or perhaps even of creation.

The Bible characterises ants as intelligent animals, something that lazy people should learn from.


Marris, Emma. 2014. Secrets of ant rafts revealed. Nature News. (11 June).