Individual ants aren’t terribly bright despite the fact that the boast the biggest brains in the insect kingdom. While searching for food, ants may appear frenetic and disorganized, but don’t be mistaken as scout ants know precisely what they’re doing.
In a study released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors make it clear that ants are acting quite efficiently. Once an ant finds a food source, it takes a bit back to the nest and leaves a trail of pheromones in its wake that others can use to find the food source if they act quickly to arrive at the food before the trail evaporates.
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There is no “I” in team
Given time, ants begin to find the best and shortest path between the nest and the newly discovered food source. With more and more ants now using the optimized path to food, more and more pheromones mark the path attracting more ants and so on until that food source is exhausted. That once chaotic search for food becomes incredibly efficient.
“While the single ant is certainly not smart, the collective acts in a way that I’m tempted to call intelligent,” said study co-author Jurgen Kurths of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in a statement. “The ants collectively form a highly efficient complex network.”
The study also found that individual ants differ in their abilities to find food with older ants exhibiting gained experience that makes them better food seekers. While they might me better at finding food, they are also slower which means they need the younger ants to essentially work as interns.
Better than Google
In speaking of the study, Kurth goes so far as to say that “ant technology” rivals or exceeds Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL)’s search technology. As he told The Independent recently, “I’d go so far as to say that the learning strategy involved in that, is more accurate and complex than a Google search. These insects are, without doubt, more efficient than Google in processing information about their surroundings.”
While not suggesting that you go ask an ant to get movie times near your house, it’s interesting to read that ants are more efficient at organizing information than we are at present through Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL)’s algorithms.