Underwatertimes.com News Service - March 12, 2006 21:31 EST

Australian scientists have discovered what they think is the only species of ant that can live under water.

Researchers at Townsville's James Cook University said Sunday that the newly discovered species - polyrhachis sokolova - nest in submerged mangroves and hide from predators in air pockets.

Simon Robson said he chanced upon the find while researching something else.

He told national broadcaster ABC: "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. We were sort of dumbfounded".

He said it was surprising that the ants could survive in such a hostile environment.

"We've been doing a lot of studies on their foraging behaviour and there's a lot of things that eat them, so when they're swimming, fish will sometimes eat them, mud skippers will eat them, crabs will attack them," he said. "It seems a very nasty place to live and we're still trying to work out how they manage to do so."