We humans are not the only one who depends on past experiences for making competent decisions, ants too have been known living successfully on the same paradigm and they have been residing on earth for some 110-130 million years ago. Ants have been flourishing in almost any kind of environment on earth except a few uninhabitable one like Antarctica and few inaccessible islands. They have organized colonies with division of job among different groups of ants for food collection, taking care of new borne and the nest, fighting off the enemy to name a few. These similarities of ants with the humans have motivated the researchers for study.
A recent study done by Taka Sasaki and Stephen Pratt of Arizona State University (ASU) reveals ants approach towards an outcome depends on their experiences and conjointly make a decision after evaluation of available options for the benefit of their colony. The study was focused on the Temnothorax rugatulus ant’s choice for nesting sites. These ants are more inclined towards nest with dark or low light environment and smaller entrances and chambers and mostly found living in rock fissures.
The researchers studied how ants choose one nest over other by furnishing them with two kinds of nesting site. One nest with smaller entrance but with more light exposure and the other with lower light exposure but bigger entrance. Surprisingly, ants collectively made a decision to choose a nest over other, compromising on one requirement over other as none of the nest was perfect. These tests also revealed that ants make better decision together in contrast to individual ants who often made poor choices.
Each ant plays a role similar to neurons in human brain. Neurons and brain collectively make a decision just like all ants together make decisions but how every neurons effect decision making is still not fully understood. When in group each ant judge only a certain part of the nest and then share this information with other ants for the decision making. And so no ant was over burdened to keep lot of information and experiences from the past and thus effectively weigh the option as per their experience and memory.
Such studies can be beneficiary for the humans as well because like ants we also depend on collective decision making. There is lot for humans to learn from ants in future.
Source: Nature World News