WATCH: Why You Can’t Drown Fire Ants

Look at that GIF. Those accursed ants refuse to drown, seemingly defying everything you thought you knew about water, ants, and life itself.

This GIF went viral the other day, but few sites addressed how this is actually possible. It turns out that if you put a single ant in water, it’ll sink and drown, but a group of them can link up to form a sort of life-raft by trapping air beneath them, according to io9.

In effect, the linked-up ants function like the molecules of a liquid, or the threads that weave a waterproof basket. The ants use the air trapped below to help them float and shift positions to fill out the mass as some ants move away.

Scientists studied this strange phenomenon using masses of fire ants numbering anywhere between 500 and 8,000. Often the ants rely on this behavior to survive floods in their rainforest ecosystem.

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