House hunting like an ant
If only house hunting was so simple for us - recent research has discovered that ants are really great at finding a good home by using a really simple method.
What the researchers found
Dr Elva Robinson and her team at Bristol University's Biological Research department placed tiny radio-frequency ID tags onto the backs of rock ants and then studied their movements with surprising results. The scientists found that the entire colony ended up in a much superior nest despite it being nine times further away than another nest site. Proving that location isn't everything!
Ants instinctively know the right choice
Very few of the ants visited both sites but nearly half of the ants who went to the closer spot changed their minds and opted for the better nest site further away. The end result was that the whole colony arrived at the superior nest site with ease.
How did the ants do it?
The ants use a very simple method of arriving at the best decision by counting on individual behaviour. When they find a site to their liking they don't have to visit any other because of their so-called 'threshold of acceptability'. As long as that threshold is not breached, each ant having reached the better nest would stay put and scouts would communicate to the rest that their new home had been found.
What can we learn from this?
Buying a new home for us is an entirely personal thing and most of us would feel uncomfortable moving into a new place without considering and visiting alternatives. But this research has given new insight into computer network design as computers have to utilise collective decision making tools when dealing with multiple sources of information.