We find that ants can considerably enhance their water repellency by linking their bodies together, a process analogous to the weaving of a waterproof fabric (emphasis added)
An advantage of being hydrophobic is the ability of ants and semiaquatic insects to trap a plastron layer of air around their bodies, without which they would sink. We verified the necessity of the plastron by measuring the volume displacement of ant rafts. We find that clean water permits plastron retention, whereas soapy water prevents it. [ . . . ] The presence of the plastron also explains why ants in rafts rarely drown: Their plastron enables them to breathe even when they are at the bottom of the raft.
Given that ants are significantly more viscous than water, the physical picture of an ant raft is that of a viscous lens (a large pancake-shaped drop) floating on an immiscible nonviscous liquid.
Experiments of Ant Rafts in Soap Solutions. We find that even trace amounts will cause the ants to radically change their behavior, as shown in the images of a raft on water with traces of soap (Fig. S1). As soon as ants become even slightly soapy, they immediately release their grip with each other, which is shown by the disintegration of the raft and its submergence underwater. This is in contrast to the closely packed ants in the buoyant raft, as shown in Figs. 1 and 2 in the main text.
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