April 4, 2012

Cooperation In Nature: Fire Ant Rafts

A living raft of fire ants - cooperation in action
Everything we need to know about how to live with each other successfully can be learned through observing nature. One lesson that consistently reappears is the importance of cooperation. Contrary to popular belief, life is not a competitive game.  

Take the example of the South American fire ant. They are a formidable foe, in part because of their ability to cooperate. A group of scientists braved numerous fiery stings to discover ways ant cooperation helps increase their survival even in the harshest conditions.

The welt-covered investigators found that in order to protect themselves in times of periodic flooding, fire ants have evolved a water-proof emergency plan. When the water comes up, the ants grasp each other with their mandibles to form structures such as bridges and rafts.

The structure the ants form as they cling to each other is strong and flexible. The ant lattice is similar to gor-tex fibre, a material that holds together so strongly that it can last 100 years exposed to the outdoors.

Fire ant rafts are amazingly robust and can survive for weeks floating in water. If anything pushes the ant raft into the water they remain buoyant, and bounce back to the surface, unharmed.

And what of single ants that don't make it to a raft? Their survival rate is poor, and most will drown.

Like fire ants, humans are also social creatures. And when the waters begin to rise, our survival rate also increases dramatically when we cooperate with each other.

We depend on each other, and have a natural instinct to help one another. Through the cooperative nature of life, we are all inextricably linked.

So let's raft-up and hold on to each other tight. These are challenging times, but together we can ride them out.

Cooperation is cool.

Note: 2012 is the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives
"Through their distinctive focus on values, cooperatives have proven themselves a resilient and viable business model that can prosper even during difficult times. This success has helped prevent many families and communities from sliding into poverty."
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


  1. Anonymous4/04/2012

    Great post! Everything we need to know, we already know at a primal level. Nature is our home and guide.

    1. We are on the best planet around. Learning from it, and caring for it, is very much worthwhile. If we do, it will take care of us in return.



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