Self-organized traffic via priority rules in leaf-cutting ants

by Daniel Strömbom, Audrey Dussutour

Ants, termites and humans often form well-organized and highly efficient trails between different locations. Yet the microscopic traffic rules responsible for this organization and efficiency are not fully understood. In previous experimental studies with leaf-cutting ants (Atta colombica), a set of local priority rules were isolated and it was proposed that these rules govern the temporal and spatial organization of the traffic on the trails. Here we introduce a model based on these priority rules to investigate whether they are sufficient to produce traffic similar to that observed in the experiments on both a narrow and a wider trail. We establish that the model is able to reproduce key characteristics of the traffic on the trails. In particular, we show that the proposed priority rules induce de-synchronization into clusters of inbound and outbound ants on a narrow trail, and that priority-type dependent segregated traffic emerges on a wider trail. Due to the generic nature of the proposed priority rules we speculate that they may be used to model traffic organization in a variety of other ant species.

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