Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
    Army Ants: Master Builders and Efficient Hunters

    Army ants are known for their aggressive nature and venomous stings, making them challenging creatures to study. However, their unique ability to build living bridges is truly remarkable. Isabella Muratore, a researcher at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has been studying these ants and their architectural prowess. By understanding how army ants build bridges by linking their bodies, scientists may gain insights into controlling swarms of robots. Muratore presented her findings at a recent meeting of the Entomological Society of America.

    Commonly found in Central America, South America, and Africa, army ants form long foraging lines on forest floors. When faced with obstacles like gaps between leaves or branches, these ants use their bodies to construct living bridges. They string themselves across the gap and allow other ants to walk on top of them, creating shortcuts and aiding the traversal of difficult terrain. This bridge-building behavior not only helps the ants but also leads to more efficient food collection.

    While building bridges can be advantageous, it comes at a cost to the colony. The ants involved in bridge construction are unavailable for hunting. Muratore discovered that despite their small individual brains, army ants collectively weigh the costs and benefits of building a bridge. They optimize their path-finding strategy to maximize food collection while minimizing the loss of foraging time. This decision-making process showcases the sophisticated collective intelligence of these tiny creatures.

    Muratore conducted experiments by deliberately placing obstacles in the way of army ants, filming their behavior, and analyzing their decision-making processes. This research provides insights into how the ants optimize their bridge-building techniques to find the most efficient paths around obstacles. By studying army ants’ behavior, scientists can potentially apply these principles to robotic swarms, improving their ability to navigate and overcome obstacles in various contexts.


    Q: What are army ants known for?
    A: Army ants are aggressive predators with venomous stings and bites.

    Q: What is unique about army ants’ behavior?
    A: Army ants can build living bridges by linking their bodies, aiding in navigation and foraging.

    Q: How do army ants decide to build a bridge?
    A: Despite small individual brains, army ants collectively weigh the costs and benefits of bridge-building to optimize food collection.

    Q: How can this research be applied to robotics?
    A: Understanding army ants’ path-finding and obstacle navigation strategies can potentially improve the capabilities of robotic swarms.