Thursday, 7 May 2015

Invasive ants are extreme excavators

By Victoria GillScience reporter, BBC News

7 May 2015 

Invasive fire ants have dug in soils across different continents to establish their colonies

Researchers in the US have revealed a secret of the success of invasive fire ants - they can excavate any type of soil.

Three-dimensional scanning revealed that the insects were able to build their complex nests regardless of the size of grains they needed to move.

The ants also changed their excavation techniques depending on the type of soil in which they were digging.

They invaded [the US] 80 years ago and they have dug nests from Georgia to LA - they can dig in anythingProf Dan Goldman, Georgia Institute of Technology

Lead researcher Prof Dan Goldman, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, told BBC News that while we "shove this kind of material around using bulldozers", fire ants create complex underground structures using discreet little appendages.

"They're really grasping and holding," he said.

"They're more sophisticated manipulators of [sand and soil] than anything humans have ever engineered."

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