Ants are among the few creatures besides humans that can cooperate and organize themselves when they have to work together. Researchers wanted to discover how this is possible so they conducted a study on the ant species known as the longhorn crazy ants in order to better observe their behavior. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.
The research team led by Ofer Feinerman of the Department of Physics of Complex Systems at the Weizmann Institute of Science analyzed a group of ants that transported food towards their nest. After carefully observing the position of each ant the researcher noted that the ants carried the objects in the same direction as their neighbors did. Even though their vision or antennae were blocked by the object which they were carrying the ants did not go to a different direction.
So you might wonder how the ants know where they should go if they cannot see where they are heading. The group of ants is led by a scout ant which has more information about the direction and thus becomes the leader of the rest of the group. Ants which are not attached to the group are able to set the right direction because they know where the nest is and can figure out when the group is off course.
Everything the leader has to do is pull the food item in the right direction. The rest of the ants understand that they must not resist the force, but follow it. After 10 or 20 seconds the leader loses its sense of direction and no longer knows where to head it yields the role to another ant that has updated information about the road to the nest.
If you look at this system it looks like the intelligence of knowing where to go and how to pass obstacles does not come from the big group. The big group just gets stuck at the big obstacle and they never pass it. The problem-solving abilities come from the single ant who knows which way to go to pass the obstacle.”
He also added that the findings of their study indicates that a whole group can work efficiently based only on the knowledge of a single individual.
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