Ants don’t like traffic jams!

How do we prevent ourselves from crashing in to opposite traffic while driving on very narrow roads? We put down traffic lights, and let people drive back and forth in groups. This way, everybody can get where they need to be without crashing in to each other.

Lasius ant walking through a narrow tunnel.

Lasius platythorax ant walking through a narrow tunnel.

It turns out that ants solve this problem in exactly the same way (minus the traffic lights…unfortunately)! Indeed, when ants have to navigate through a very narrow space in order to get to their food and bring it back to the colony, they don’t just start walking whenever they want, as that would result in everyone bumping in to each other all the time. Instead, one group waits on one side for another group to pass by, after which it’s the first group’s turn to start walking. By alternating their back-and-forth traffic, they make sure that nobody is crashing in to each other, saving a lot of precious time!

References:

Dussuttour et al. (2005). Temporal organization of bi-directional traffic in the ant Lasius niger (L.). The Journal of Experimental Biology 208: 2903-2912

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