Friday 20 April 2018

Ants 'better than Google' at processing information

Jamie Merrill

The dedication and stamina of the worker ant, toiling through the summer months and preparing for winter, were celebrated in 'Aesop's Fables' – in contrast to the lazy, singing grasshopper, unready for the hardships ahead.

Now research shows ants don't just flourish because they work hard and will slavishly sacrifice themselves for the collective. Their success is also due to their group ability to process information "far more efficiently than Google" in the daily search for food, according to scientists.

A major behavioural mathematics study, which could also have ramifications for how we understand human behaviour on the internet, used complex computer modelling to reveal how ants bring order to chaos by creating "highly complex networks" to govern their actions.

It found that not only are ants "surprisingly efficient", but they are able to deploy ingenious navigation strategies to divide themselves between "scout" and "gathering" ants during "complex feed-search movements".

The joint Chinese-German study, which is published in 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences', found that while individual "scout" ants may seem "chaotic" in their movements, they are leaving a trail of pheromones to allow following "gathering" ants to refine and shorten their journeys to food sources in the vicinity of the colony.

As this journey is repeated again and again by worker ants carrying their loads, a "self-reinforcing effect of efficiency" creates a shorter trail, saving the colony the time and energy of "continued chaotic foraging". (© Independent News Service)

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