Ants use their brains and brawn for hauling heavy loads

Ants use their brains and brawn for hauling heavy loads

Ants belong to the few animal species which organize among them to carry loads collectively to handle what an individual member from their species cannot carry. The ability of ants in mixing collective muscle and individual initiative for heavy lifting is astonishing, according to a study that has been published on Tuesday.

Researchers showed from experiments how several ants worked in unison to haul, for instance, a large insect adjusting their course on the basis of intelligence supplied by a single ant playing the lead role. When the train moved off course or was heading for trouble the scout somehow realized that and signaled a necessary change in direction subtly by moving in a different angle. The others then fell in line rather than resisting the change.

The individual ant leading the party has the know how to cross an obstacle but it lacks the muscle power need to move the load explains Ofter Feinerman, the main architect of the study who is a researcher at Wizmann Institute of Science, Israel.

He added that the group thus amplifies the strength of its leader so that the leader can actually implement the idea.

More surprisingly, the ant in the lead role will, some ten or twenty seconds later, yield that position to another ant that comes along with more updated information.

In an email Feinerman adds that to the extent known to the group, the scout is not different from the other ants in the group. The leader is not designated by any one and is she and not he that assumes the task because she is equipped with current knowledge on the correct direction.

A challenge that humans as well as ants face in common is finding a balance between flexibility and adaptability

Animals that live in groups such as sheep, fish etc. have evolved the ability to act in concert, a quality that is essential for coordinated movement. Feinerman adds that it is this quality that helps the ants to pull together rather than apart. But, there are times when this behavior conformism works as a drawback, and that is when scouts with updated information come in.

The interplay of individual and group effort can be compared with the relationship between a team of 8 people rowing together and their coxswain steering the boat keeping an eye all the while on competition.

A difference however is that to be in the lead, the ant should also pull.

Ants use their brains and brawn for hauling heavy loads

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