We present field experiments and analyses that test both the assumptions and the predictions of a model that showed how the swarm raids of the army ant Eciton burchellimight be self-organizing, i.e., based on hundreds of thousands of interactions among the foraging workers rather than a central administration or hierarchical control. We use circular mill experiments to show that the running velocity of the ants is a sigmoidal function of the strength of their trail pheromones and provide evidence that the swarm raid is structured by the interaction between outbound and inbound forager traffic mediated by the pheromones produced by both of these sets of ants. Inbound traffic is also affected by the distribution of prey, and hence, sites of prey capture alter the geometry of the raid. By manipulating the prey distributions for E. burchelliswarms, we have made them raid in a form more typical of other army ant species. Such self-organization of raids based on an interaction between the ants and their environment has profound consequences for interpretations of the evolution of army ant species.
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Franks, N.R., Gomez, N., Goss, S. et al. The blind leading the blind in army ant raid patterns: Testing a model of self-organization (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). J Insect Behav 4, 583–607 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01048072
- army ants
- mathematical model