Swimming evolved several times in treetop ants | Science News

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Swimming evolved several times in treetop ants

At least 10 ant species can rescue themselves after falling from the forest canopy

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6:39pm, June 13, 2014

KEEP CALM, SWIM ON  Although terrestrial, the tropical ant Pachycondyla villosa will rescue itself from an accidental splashdown by moving deftly through the water, dodging or climbing over floating debris as it heads toward shore. Such swimming ability has evolved multiple times among treetop ants.

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In the tropics, some ants living high in trees can swim well if an accident — or a scientist — drops them into water.

Some form of swimming has evolved independently several times in ants, says Steve Yanoviak of the University of Louisville in Kentucky. In swim tests, the champs powered across the water at more than three body lengths per second, he and Dana Frederick of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock report in the June 15 Journal of Experimental Biology.

Tropical ants have plenty of water to worry about, especially where rivers flood acres of Amazonian forest so deeply that for months each year, fish swim among the trees. Ants that plummet from their treetop homes may drown, get gulped by aquatic predators or, just as fatally, be swept downstream far enough that they can’t find their colony again. “If you’re a

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