Teaching in tandem-running ants

Nature. 2006 Jan 12;439(7073):153. doi: 10.1038/439153a.


The ant Temnothorax albipennis uses a technique known as tandem running to lead another ant from the nest to food--with signals between the two ants controlling both the speed and course of the run. Here we analyse the results of this communication and show that tandem running is an example of teaching, to our knowledge the first in a non-human animal, that involves bidirectional feedback between teacher and pupil. This behaviour indicates that it could be the value of information, rather than the constraint of brain size, that has influenced the evolution of teaching.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Feedback / physiology
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Teaching*