Is it an ancient Mayan ant tradition, a bug’s sacrificial dance, or something more digitally advanced? A recent YouTube video shows a truly fascinating (if not terrifying) display of ant behavior, in which the small insects suddenly abandon their previously haphazard motion to march in a circle around a ringing iPhone. The footage, posted five days ago, has already garnered over 600,000 views and has incited some pretty interesting debate as to why the ants are behaving in such a peculiar way. While some have insisted that the video is nothing more than a hoax, others believe that there is a simple scientific explanation for the movement patterns, because not even ants are immune to the effects of 21st-century technology.
According to both the video description and Associate Professor Nigel Andrew of the Department of Entomology at the University of New England, the circular walking pattern is nothing more than the ants’ response to electromagnetic waves emitted by the iPhone. Said Andrew, “[Ants] have magnetic receptors in their antennae. If they’re traveling long distances they use magnetic cues from the earth to know if they are going north, east, south, or west.”
Other theories give a slightly different explanation, however. Simon Robson, a social insect researcher at Queensland’s James Cook University, believes that ants tend to walk in circles regardless of what object is in the middle. Speaking with Yahoo 7, Robson explained, “There are many ants that actually start forming in a circle without the phone. It’s an unavoidable consequence of their communication systems. 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.”
And then, of course, there are the skeptics, who believe that the video was, to some extent, “staged.” In an email to Tech Insider, entomologist Phil Torres said, “Honestly, looks kind of off to me and I’d say it is probably a faked video. Not that ants aren’t capable being tricked into doing amazing, fascinating behaviors but something about their movement in general doesn’t seem quite ant-like to me. I could be very wrong though, just would need to know more about where it was filmed and if swarming ant species would be found there.”
Whatever the reason, you’ve gotta admit this is one cool video. And if it is indeed a fake, well — kudos to the mastermind behind what seems like some pretty artful staging.