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. 2018 Oct 11;14(10):e1006523.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006523. eCollection 2018 Oct.

Self-organized Traffic via Priority Rules in Leaf-Cutting Ants

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Self-organized Traffic via Priority Rules in Leaf-Cutting Ants

Daniel Strömbom et al. PLoS Comput Biol. .
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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.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Fig 1
Fig 1. Schematic of the wide trail.
Illustrating the definitions of the central and marginal zones and the (x,w)-coordinate system used in the model.
Fig 2
Fig 2. Comparison model-experiment for the narrow trail.
In each plot the blue curves represent the experimental means and the values correspond to those presented in Figs 2–5 in [22]. The red asterisks represent the simulation means and the black lines represent the maximum and the minimum over 1000 simulations.
Fig 3
Fig 3. Comparison model-experiment for the wide trail.
The asterisks represent the proportion of ants of the specific type traveling in the central zone on the trail in the experiments. The boxes represent corresponding measurements over 1000 simulations (red crosses represents outliers) of (A) The wide trail model with the turning rule, and (B) The wide trail model with the stopping rule instead of the turning rule.

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Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.