Fun with ants and iPhones

This is one of the more fascinating videos we’ve seen in awhile. What’s happening here? The birth of a new ant religion?

It is, according to the description on YouTube, a reaction to the electromagnetic wave of an incoming phone call, a fact that makes us recall those fears in the early days of cellphones that they’re dangerous to your brain.

“A lot of ants use magnetism to orientate themselves,” says Associate Professor Nigel Andrew of Department of Entomology at the University of New England.

“[They] have magnetic receptors in their antennae,” he said. “If they’re travelling long distances they use magnetic cues from the earth to know if they are going north, east, south or west.”

Not every scientist buys the assertion, however.

“It’s an unavoidable consequence of their communication systems,” Simon Robson of Queensland’s James Cook University told local media, insisting the iPhone didn’t have a lot to do with the ants’ brehavior. “Having the ants together like that, the shape of the phone may have something to do with it and the vibration might get them a bit more excited, but a lot of ants will do it even without the phone.”

This circular march is known as a “mill,” part of the ants’ foraging instinct.

“The occasional but deadly formation of circular mills seems to be the evolutionary price that army ants pay to maintain such an ecologically successful and stable strategy of collective foraging,” Frédéric Delsuc, a researcher at Massey University in New Zealand, wrote in a 2003 study on the behavior. He said the ants are “trapped” by evolution.

Aren’t we all?

There’s one other theory. The video is fake, says naturalist Phil Torres of Al Jazeera America.

“Not that ants aren’t capable being tricked into doing amazing, fascinating behaviors,” he told Tech Insider, “but something about their movement in general doesn’t seem quite ant-like to me.”

He also acknowledges he could be wrong.

Ain’t science grand?