Have you ever been swimming and noticed a tiny ant crawling across the surface of the water? While ants are known for their hardworking and resourceful nature, you might be wondering how long they can survive underwater.
It’s a curious thought – after all, ants are creatures that are adapted to living on land and tend to avoid water whenever possible. However, there are some species of ants that are adapted to living and foraging near bodies of water. In this blog, we’ll explore the relationship between ants and water, as well as the factors that affect their ability to survive underwater.
How Long Can Ants Survive Underwater?
The short answer is that ants can survive underwater for a short period of time, but they are not adapted to living permanently underwater like some other insects. Ants are insects and, like all insects, they have a hard exoskeleton and breathe through tiny tubes called spiracles. This means that they are not adapted to living in water and will drown if they are submerged for too long.
However, some ants are able to survive underwater for a short period of time due to their ability to close their spiracles and hold their breath. For example, the Scottish wood ant (Formica aquilonia) is able to swim and dive underwater to forage for food. These ants have a special behavior called “diving bell breathing,” where they trap a bubble of air around their body using their hairs and use this bubble to breathe while underwater. They are able to remain underwater for several minutes at a time using this technique.
Other ants, such as the Australian Green Tree Ant (Oecophylla smaragdina), are able to survive longer periods of time underwater by forming a “raft” with their bodies. When threatened by floods or other water events, these ants will cling together and float on the surface of the water, using their collective buoyancy to stay afloat. These ants have been known to survive for several hours or even days in this way.
Ant’s Aversion of Water
Ants have a natural aversion to water and will typically avoid it if possible. This is because most ants are adapted to living on land and do not have the same physical adaptations as aquatic animals.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, some species of ants, such as the water ant, are adapted to living and foraging near bodies of water. These ants have special adaptations that allow them to swim and dive underwater in search of food.
In addition to their ability to swim, ants are also able to hold their breath for long periods of time. This is due to their small size and high levels of hemolymph, a liquid that circulates throughout their bodies and serves as a respiratory system. The combination of these adaptations allows ants to survive for extended periods of time underwater.
Factors that Affect Ants’ Survival Underwater
Several factors can affect an ant’s ability to survive underwater. Here are the major factors that influence their survival underwater.
Duration of Submersion
The length of time an ant can survive underwater depends on the species and the circumstances of its submersion. In general, ants can survive for several hours to a few days underwater. However, this range can vary greatly depending on the specific species of ant and the conditions it is facing. For example, some species of ants may be more adapted to living underwater than others, and may be able to survive for longer periods of time.
Temperature of the Water
The temperature of the water can also affect an ant’s ability to survive underwater. Cold water can slow an ant’s metabolism and extend its ability to survive, while warmer water can increase its metabolism and shorten its survival time. This is because cold water can slow down the chemical reactions that take place within an ant’s body, including those related to respiration and metabolism. As a result, ants may be able to survive for longer periods of time in colder water.
Access to Air
Ants are more likely to survive underwater if they are able to reach the surface to access air. This is because, like all animals, ants require oxygen to survive. If an ant is submerged underwater for an extended period of time and is unable to access air, it will eventually run out of oxygen and perish. However, if an ant is able to reach the surface periodically to take a breath, it may be able to survive for longer periods of time.
Can Ants Breathe Underwater
Ants Breathing Mechanism:
Ants, like all animals, require oxygen to survive. However, unlike humans and many other animals, ants do not have lungs or other specialized organs for breathing. Instead, they rely on a process called diffusion to obtain oxygen.
Diffusion is the movement of molecules from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. In the case of ants, oxygen diffuses across the walls of their tracheae, small tubes that run throughout their bodies and deliver oxygen to their cells.
Ants Breathing Underwater:
While ants are able to obtain oxygen through diffusion, they are not able to breathe underwater in the same way that humans and other animals do. This is because diffusion is a relatively slow process, and it is not sufficient to provide the amount of oxygen that ants need to survive for extended periods of time.
As a result, ants are only able to survive underwater for a limited period of time, typically several hours to a few days. To survive for longer periods of time, ants must be able to access the surface of the water to take a breath.
In this blog, we explored the relationship between ants and water and the factors that affect their ability to survive underwater. We learned that while ants have a natural aversion to water and are typically adapted to living on land, some species, such as the water ant, are adapted to living and foraging near bodies of water.
Next time you see an ant crawling across the surface of a body of water, take a moment to appreciate their resilience and adaptability. Despite their natural aversion to water, ants are able to survive for extended periods of time underwater due to their unique physical adaptations and resourceful nature. Whether they are foraging for food or simply trying to make their way back to land, these tiny creatures never cease to amaze us with their determination and strength.