The cave is so narrow, how can ants prevent "traffic jams"?
The cave is so narrow, how can ants prevent "traffic jams"?
Give up on the spot (

when they need to build new nests, ants start digging busily: pick up sand particles and transport them little by little to the ground, creating passages in the soil.

when digging down, ants usually create narrow channels. Narrow passages can better support the body, avoid slipping when climbing vertically, and dig deeper with less physical strength. But isn't it easy to get clogged up and down narrow passageways? When a worker ant walks into the cave and finds that the oncoming worker is in the way, what will it do?

A study published in Science in August says that most of the time the answer to this question is: give up on the spot.

the researchers marked individual fire ants with different colors, put them in transparent containers and observed how they dug holes. It turns out that a considerable number of workers are not very active: they may not work at all, or they may give up their jobs as soon as they meet oncoming companions in the aisle and go straight back to make way for each other.

(specifically, this is the picture. When the downward ant y meets the worker z who picks up the soil particles below and walks back, y often chooses to step back directly. Of course, the y trip will not make any contribution to advancing the excavation. The schematic diagram is from the original paper)

this coping style has led to an uneven distribution of work, with about 30% of ants doing 70% of the work, according to the researchers. But moderate "laziness" and "flinching" are indeed effective in relieving congestion, keeping the channel unobstructed without command. Of course, the ants who do less work are not really lazy, and if the researchers remove the individuals who carry the most bricks, the remaining ants will become active and allow the project to move forward.

in short, ants tell us that when space is limited, it is more efficient to give up properly. If you want to control a large group of small machines to do things like mining, you should be able to use the same strategy.

(I wonder if this can be applied to the breakup kitchen. )

original paper:

related report:

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