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Noise improves collective decision-making by ants in dynamic environments
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Mathematics, Analysis and Applied Mathematics.
2009 (English)In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences, ISSN 0962-8452, E-ISSN 1471-2954, Vol. 276, no 1677, 4353-4361 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Recruitment via pheromone trails by ants is arguably one of the best-studied examples of self-organization in animal societies. Yet it is still unclear if and how trail recruitment allows a colony to adapt to changes in its foraging environment. We study foraging decisions by colonies of the ant Pheidole megacephala under dynamic conditions. Our experiments show that P. megacephala, unlike many other mass recruiting species, can make a collective decision for the better of two food sources even when the environment changes dynamically. We developed a stochastic differential equation model that explains our data qualitatively and quantitatively. Analysing this model reveals that both deterministic and stochastic effects (noise) work together to allow colonies to efficiently track changes in the environment. Our study thus suggests that a certain level of noise is not a disturbance in self-organized decision-making but rather serves an important functional role.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 276, no 1677, 4353-4361 p.
Keyword [en]
decentralized decision-making, mass recruitment, Pheidole megacephala, pheromone trails
National Category
Biological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-127427DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1235ISI: 000271578700013OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-127427DiVA: diva2:329949
Available from: 2010-07-14 Created: 2010-07-13 Last updated: 2012-02-16Bibliographically approved

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