Ant Algorithms Argue Against Evolutionary Origins

Ant Algorithms Argue Against Evolutionary Origins

By Brian Thomas, M.S.

Traffic jams are a frustrating part of modern life, and many dream of the kind of uncongested roadway systems shown in futuristic movies like Minority Report. But some researchers have suggested that ideal traffic management algorithms already exist—in ants.

University of Sydney entomologist Audrey Dussutour told Wired Science that she has “been working with ants for eight years, and [has] never seen a traffic jam.” Dr. Dussutour already knew that ants organize themselves for optimum efficiency when they are in wide paths with many lanes. In their new study, she and her coauthors reported that when the insects traveled on the equivalent of a one-lane road, they employed tactics enabling them to maximize their overall efficiency.

One of the “solutions… to prevent overcrowding” on a narrow track is that outbound ants gave way to inbound ants carrying loads. Further, non-laden inbound ants slowed down rather than speeding up to pass the slower, laden ants in front of them. “The insects could waste up to 64 s [seconds] on a 300 cm bridge. However, by slowing down and following an unimpeded cargo-carrying ant, the empty-handed foragers would only be delayed by 32 s, returning faster than if they’d muscled past.” Also, “unladen returning ants avoided outbound foragers by moving to the side.

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