Spanish and U.S. researchers analyzed the movement of Argentine ants while they foraged or explored an empty space, and proposed a mathematical model explaining how they formed their routes.
The researchers started by observing the behavior of ants individually and as a collective group. The researchers recorded all of the ants' movements and, based on these observations, found that the seemingly random changes in the direction of the insects follow a mathematical pattern. "They are a mixture of Gaussian and Pareto distributions, two probability functions which are commonly used in statistics, and that in this case dictate how much the ant 'turns' at each step and the direction it will travel in," says European University in Madrid researcher Maria Vela Perez.
The researchers used the data to create a model for describing the collective movement of the ants on the surface. The researchers say their discoveries could be applied in diverse technological fields. "For example, they could be used to design the coordination of a group of micro-robots or small robots to clean a contaminated area or other tasks," Vela Perez says.
She notes the modeling, organization, and coordination of animal behavior is a clear example of multidisciplinary collaboration, as biologists participate to perform the experiments in the laboratory and provide real data, and mathematicians and physicists propose and solve the models.
From Plataforma SINC (Spain)
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