Navigation Links
Ants show us how to make super-highways

Certain army ants in the rainforests of Central and South America conduct spectacular predatory raids containing up to 200,000 foraging ants. Remarkably, some ants use their bodies to plug potholes in the trail leading back to the nest, making a flatter surface so that prey can be delivered to the developing young at maximum speed.

The raid always remains connected to the nest by a trail of forager traffic, along which prey-laden foragers run back to run back to the nest. This trail can be extremely uneven and full of ‘pot holes’ as it passes over leaves and branches on the forest floor.

The study, by Dr Scott Powell and Professor Nigel Franks at the University of Bristol, and reported in the June issue of Animal Behaviour, shows that these living ‘plugs’ improve the quality of the surface. This increases the overall speed of the traffic and results in an increase in the amount of prey delivered to the nest each day.

Professor Franks said: "I think every road user who has ever inwardly cursed as their vehicle bounced across a pothole – jarring every bone in their body – will identify with this story. When it comes to rapid road repairs, the ants have their own do-it-yourself highways agency."

"When the traffic has passed, the down-trodden ants climb out of the potholes and follow their nest mates home," added Powell. "Broadly, our research demonstrates that a simple but highly specialised behaviour performed by a minority of ant workers can improve the performance of the majority, resulting in a clear benefit for the society as a whole."

Their experiments showed that individuals size-match to the hole they plug and cooperate to plug larger holes. "We did this by getting the ants to literally ‘walk the plank’, said Powell. "We inserted planks drilled with different sizes of hole into the army ants’ trails to see how well different sizes of ant matched different sizes of pot hole. Indeed, they fit beautifully", expla ined Franks.

Overall, this behaviour results in an increase in the average speed of prey-laden traffic. Moreover, calculations suggest that under a range of realistic scenarios, plugging behaviour results in a clear increase in daily prey intake. In other words, the behaviour of the pothole pluggers more than compensates for them not carrying prey themselves.

This study provides rare quantitative evidence from animal societies that extreme specialisation by a minority can significantly improve the performance of a majority to benefit the group as a whole. It also suggests that these benefits are a consequence of the unusual and derived foraging strategy of the army ant (Eciton burchellii). This highlights the importance of considering ecology and evolutionary history in the study of social organisation in animal societies.
'"/>

Source:University of Bristol


Related biology news :

1. Virtual Patient to simulate real-time organ motions for radiation therapy
2. Jumping gene helps explain immune systems abilities
3. Protein helps regulate the genes of embryonic stem cells
4. Scientists reveal the shape of a protein that helps retroviruses break into cells
5. Thai spice helps cut blood sugar swings
6. Chemists synthesize molecule that helps body battle cancers, malaria
7. Ancient DNA helps clarify the origins of two extinct New World horse species
8. Massey Cancer Center researcher helps to identify a piece of the cancer puzzle
9. Study: Well-known protein helps stem cells become secretory cells
10. Beyond genes: Lipid helps cell wall protein fold into proper shape
11. Simple sea sponge helps scientists understand tissue rejection

Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:4/19/2017)... York , April 19, 2017 ... as its vendor landscape is marked by the presence ... market is however held by five major players - ... Together these companies accounted for nearly 61% of the ... the leading companies in the global military biometrics market ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... 11, 2017 Crossmatch®, a globally-recognized leader ... today announced that it has been awarded a ... Activity (IARPA) to develop next-generation Presentation Attack Detection ... "Innovation has been a driving force within Crossmatch ... allow us to innovate and develop new technologies ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... , April 5, 2017  The Allen Institute ... Allen Cell Explorer: a one-of-a-kind portal and dynamic digital ... 3D imaging data, the first application of deep learning ... human stem cell lines and a growing suite of ... platform for these and future publicly available resources created ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2017)... USA, and CARDIFF, UK (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2017 , ... ... (LANL), and Brian Lula, president of Physik Instrumente USA, have been selected as this ... and photonics . , The two have been invited along with other honorees to ...
(Date:6/23/2017)... ... June 23, 2017 , ... ... flying hobbyists, and the University Aviation Association (UAA), the unifying voice for collegiate ... Collegiate Challenge will encourage teamwork, competition, and success through a STEM-based education platform. ...
(Date:6/22/2017)... Colorado (PRWEB) , ... June 21, 2017 , ... ... RTP regional office in North Carolina, and engages Timothy Reinhardt to manage the ... of quality leadership at Pfizer Inc, with his most recent role as the ...
(Date:6/22/2017)... ... June 22, 2017 , ... AESKU.GROUP, an innovation ... Systeme & Technologien GmbH, thereby expanding its product portfolio to include allergy and ... urticaria, asthma, atopic eczema or a food allergy. Allergies are escalating to epidemic ...
Breaking Biology Technology: