Ant nest network differences determine a colony’s fate

Harvester ants (Veromessor andrei) are commonly found in northern California. These ants live in an underground nest, which consists of chambers (i.e. nodes) and tunnels (i.e. edges). They collect plant seeds around their nest and store them for winter. These ants are known to relocate their nest quite often, sometimes digging up an entirely new nest and other times occupying an empty or abandoned nest of others.

A recent study has shown that the architecture of the harvester ant nest affects how well these ants do in terms of collecting food sources. Because every nest has different topology of connected chambers and tunnels, some nests have more redundant network (cyclic network) than others. The study shows that the more connected the nest is, the faster information spread among ants, which in turn make more ants to come out and look for food.

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source: Noa, Pinter-Wollman. “Nest architecture shapes the collective behavior of harvester ants”. In: Biology Letters (2015).

Interestingly, the study has found no relationship between the volume of the nest with the efficiency of food gathering, indicating that it is the network structure of the nest which matters, not the mere number of ants living in the nest. Since there are more than 12,000 species of ants all over the world, further studies on each species’ unique nest architecture and its influence on the species’ survival perhaps give us deeper insight into how network affects the non-human social structure.

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One Response to Ant nest network differences determine a colony’s fate

  1. Pingback: Talkative Ants spread Information | MS&E 135 Networks @ Stanford

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