communication among ants

I’d written an article many years ago on ants but I regret its unlikely I’ll ever trace it again. [Thats why I’m now maintaining a blog where I have a single repository for all these kind of things.]

Why do they walk in a straight line? I read that the first ant that discovers food leaves behind a scent trial, which is picked up by other ants. The ants keep walking over the same trial every time. Almost every ant shortens the trail a minute bit, optimises it a bit, so eventually the curved path ends up becoming a straight line.

This is something I probably wouldnt do now, but as a kid, I would just rub the path between the ants when there was a gap… and see that they would seem to hit some kind of invisible wall and get completely disoriented! But slowly reestablish the connection again.

There are even robotic systems based on ants. Actually if you think about it, each ant is an independent creature with absolutely no “grand plan” about how the anthill (or wherever they stay) should be constructed and how to “build a road” from the anthill to the food source the way we have architects plan our grand flyovers. The ants dont have an organised leader shouting out instructions to the other ants over a microphone, they dont have any of the other hi-tech things we humans would commonly think as inevitable for a similar project for us. And yet their system is just fantastic – every ant seems to know exactly what to do and how to do it, in perfect synchonization with the whole system.

And now that I mention it, maybe its vaguely similar to traffic in Bangalore as well.

3 Responses to “communication among ants”

  1. msanjay Says:

    “The question is, how does a worker know what to do?” said Gordon, coauthor of the May 1 Nature study. “There’s nobody in charge, there’s nobody telling it what to do.”

    ‘Work stinks’: It’s more than just a slogan among ants, researchers find

    I really like this one… a dad confronts the question of his eight year old… and actually shares his curiosity to discover the answer: Can ants see?

    See also: How far can ants see?

  2. msanjay Says:

    Ant Colony Algorithms
    ——————–

    Among other complex problems, Ant Colony optimizers can be used to simulate routing problems when network topologies change over time.

    Emergent Behavior

    Ant Colony Optimizers are a simple example of how simple systems can self-organize or show emergent behavior. Emergent behavior is not a well-defined term, but generally refers to complex and unexpected outcomes arising from the interaction of simple individual entities. Examples include bird flocking, creation of complex nests by colonies of termites, and (more controversially) structure in human societies, particularly economics and financial markets.
    Dr. Dobb’s Journal of Software Architecture

    ——–

    Shows how everything’s related!!

  3. bellur ramakrishna Says:

    Sanjay,
    Great post about the creature that I admire since childhood to this day. Malagode illva guru avu? abbabba! yenu kelsa maadatvayya, ishtudda ide…

    It seems ants are like sharks: they haven’t physically changed much in millions of years. Nature came up with a near-perfect design, and left well enough alone. That ants are still successful after at least 60 millions years is proof of the old axiom, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    And I see so many of them near terribly dusty places……it seems when moved to a different climate or location, they quickly adapt. There are specially adapted ant species that only live in and around human dwellings. Some ant species can survive under water for up to 14 days or longer by going into something like suspended animation. Ants are resistant to hard radiation, and some ant species are highly resistant to industrial pollution. (Remembered your story you told on our visit to Ranganathittu with Canan. You told that futuristic story and told only cockroaches will survive!)
    If a nuclear holocaust ever destroys our civilization, the ants will be giving the cockroaches a run for their money!

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