Experimental investigation of ant traffic under crowded conditions.

Journal: eLife

Published: 2019-10-22

DOI: 10.7554/elife.48945

Affiliations: 3

Authors: 5

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Research Highlight

How ants beat congestion

© Carlos Ángel Vázquez Tena/EyeEm/Getty

© Carlos Ángel Vázquez Tena/EyeEm/Getty

Even at high densities, ants maintain high traffic flow rates when travelling in two directions along trails.

Ants are unusual in that, like humans, they engage in two-way traffic as they travel between nests and food sources. Traffic flow typically drops off as the number of commuters increases, but some evidence has suggested that ants are particularly adept at managing congested conditions.

By performing measurements on ants crossing a bridge, a team that included a University of Adelaide researcher has found that ant flow does not decrease even at 80% occupancy levels. In contrast, flow begins decreasing at half this amount on our roads.

The ants achieved this by adjusting their behavior to their conditions — avoiding overcrowded areas and slowing down together to avoid collisions at high densities.

The findings may have applications in optimizing traffic flow for self-driving cars.

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  1. eLife 8, e48945 (2019). doi: 10.7554/elife.48945
Institutions Share
Research Center on Animal Cognition (CRCA), France 0.60
Arizona State University (ASU), United States of America (USA) 0.20
The University of Adelaide (Adelaide Uni), Australia 0.20