When this flight paths of starlings video by artist and professor Dennis Hlynsky went viral, it sparked a lot of questions for us: How did he make the visualizations? How do the starlings move quickly as a flock? What makes other groups of animals move the way they do?
In Micromigrationsfrom The Atlantic, Hlynsky discusses his own questions as we observe the water striders, ants, starlings, vultures, crows, and little white flying bugs that continue to inspire his curiosity and his work.
The next time that you’re in your local natural history museum, don’t just look at the large animals in the dioramas — really look for those hidden small animals, too: a brown-headed cowbird near a bison, a Botta’s pocket gopher peeking from a burrow, or a Blue Echo Butterfly on a flower. These smaller details in scenes get as much attention from museum staff as the central figures.
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology explain that these ants can link their bodies together, forming waterproof rafts that behave much like an active material capable of changing state from a solid to a liquid. The ants can drip, spread and coagulate; and this transition helps them survive rainfall and crashing waves.
In a statement, the APS compares the structure’s behavior to Jell-O and toothpaste, stating that they are all “viscoelastic” materials capable of resisting flow under stress and reverting to their original shape like rubber bands. The fire ant rafts do not behave exactly like solids or liquids, but as a kind of hybrid of the two.