From: Stanford University
Published October 3, 2017 09:43 AM

Stanford Researchers Found an Algorithm That Explains How Ants Create and Repair Trail Networks

Imagine you’re a member of the Cephalotes goniodontus species, an arboreal ant with a Darth Vader-like head that has inspired humans to call you “turtle ants.” You’re moving along a branch of the tangled tree canopy in Jalisco, Mexico, following a scent trail left by other ants from your colony, but you hit an abrupt end where the branch is broken. How do you know where to go?

Deborah Gordon, professor of biology at Stanford University, set out to answer this and many other questions when she began studying these ants in 2011. Peering into the trees – sometimes from atop a ladder – Gordon spent hours recording which junctions the ants choose.

Gordon’s work, published online Sept. 29 by The American Naturalist, has led to the development of a simple algorithm that explains how ants create, repair and prune a network within a complex maze of vegetation. This algorithm could explain other biological processes or provide engineering solutions.

Read more at Stanford University

Image: Ants of the species C. goniodontus, painted so that researchers can track their movement through the network of vegetation that connects their nests and food sources. (Credit: Deborah Gordon)

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