Fire ants tunnelling
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Ant engineering captured in slow motion detail

20 May 2013 Last updated at 20:58 BST

A study showing how ants tunnel their way through confined spaces could aid the design of search-and-rescue robots, according to US scientists.

A team from Georgia Institute of Technology found that fire ants used every limb, and even their antennae, to catch themselves when they fell, and build stable tunnels in loose sand.

Researchers used high speed cameras to record in detail this behaviour.

Here Prof Dan Goldman explains how the ants manage to engineer stable tunnels, even in fine, loose sand.

Footage courtesy of the Georgia Institute of Technology