JCU Re-Discovers Swimming Ants

Here’s an interesting story with a twist.. 🙂

ABC News today reported that Dr Simon Robson has “discovered a new type of ant, believed to be the only species that can live, swim and navigate under water“. It goes on to quote him saying:

“I was actually working with a film crew working on insects in the mangroves and they wanted to film one of these ants and I said, ‘Well, lets put it on a rock in a puddle of water and that’ll stop it going away and then you’ll be able to film it,’ and the ant promptly just leapt off the edge of the rock and swam across the water and disappeared”

First of all this is not a new type of ant, merely a newly discovered behaviour of Polyrhachis Sokolova, but that’s not unusual for a media translation of a science/technology story.

More interesting is that there is a JCU press release from 2001 that says:

Issue date: 31-AUG-2001

Bees might be known as the busiest of insects, but a JCU Honours student has discovered one species of ant which doesn’t sleep, knows how to swim and shares its babies with other nests.

School of Tropical Biology student Angela Shuetrim has spent most of this year investigating the behavioural habits of Polyrhachis sokolova, an ant species occupying the mangrove habitat at Three Mile Creek, near Pallarenda.

(Underlining added)

It turns out that Angela Shuetrim is a research student under Dr Robson and that there was another press release put out by JCU on March 10th 2006 that mentions all the researchers.

So my guess is that this apparent re-discovery is the result of a mangling of multiple stories together by the ABC, maybe to make it sound like groundbreaking research happened whilst the BBC was filming ‘Life in the Undergrowth’ – who knows ?

Still, it’s interesting to know that at least one species of ant can swim. 😉