Individual and collective choice: parallel prospecting and mining in ants
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- Aleksiev, A.S., Longdon, B., Christmas, M.J. et al. Naturwissenschaften (2008) 95: 301. doi:10.1007/s00114-007-0329-9
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Decision making is of crucial importance in the lives of both animals and humans. How decisions of group members scale up to group decisions is of great interest. Accordingly, we gave homeless ant colonies (n = 67) in three experiments a choice between two nest sites (with small, big or mixed sand grains), each of which had to be excavated to be habitable. Among the colonies that chose only one of the new nest sites, all preferred the ones that could be excavated most easily and quickly. There are interesting parallels between the collective choice of mining sites and the ability of certain ants to select short cuts; both involve positive feedback. However, in this paper, we discuss a mechanism whereby collective co-ordination in the production of social infrastructure can occur in the absence of signalling.