Ants have different 'standards' when it comes to choosing a home

June 12, 2015
University of Bristol

Ants use collective decision-making to select the best option when choosing a new home. Until now, the exact way in which they do this has puzzled researchers. A new study, led by the University of Bristol and published in Royal Society Open Science, found that while some are happy to slum it out in anything with a roof, others are so choosy that even the equivalent of a mansion will not satisfy them.

Scientists know that ants use a 'quorum'; a certain number of ants must 'vote' for any one option before the colony as a whole makes a choice, but how do the opinions of individual ants affect this? Using , researchers from Bristol's Schools of Engineering Mathematics and Biological Sciences have demonstrated that the answer may lie in the varying 'pickiness' of ants in a colony.

The modelling found this distribution of individual 'standards' across the colony makes for a robust, but effective, method of nest choice. When the team simulated this, their results were strikingly similar to the behaviour of real , suggesting that, in insects often known for their uniformity, in this case at least, individuality may hold the key to their success.

More information: "Computational model of collective nest selection by ants with heterogeneous acceptance thresholds." DOI: 10.1098/rsos.140533

Provided by: University of Bristol

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