Article: article from journal or magazin.
Negative feedback in ants: crowding results in less trail pheromone deposition.
Journal of the Royal Society, Interface
Crowding in human transport networks reduces efficiency. Efficiency can be increased by appropriate control mechanisms, which are often imposed externally. Ant colonies also have distribution networks to feeding sites outside the nest and can experience crowding. However, ants do not have external controllers or leaders. Here, we report a self-organized negative feedback mechanism, based on local information, which downregulates the production of recruitment signals in crowded parts of a network by Lasius niger ants. We controlled crowding by manipulating trail width and the number of ants on a trail, and observed a 5.6-fold reduction in the number of ants depositing trail pheromone from least to most crowded conditions. We also simulated crowding by placing glass beads covered in nest-mate cuticular hydrocarbons on the trail. After 10 bead encounters over 20 cm, forager ants were 45 per cent less likely to deposit pheromone. The mechanism of negative feedback reported here is unusual in that it acts by downregulating the production of a positive feedback signal, rather than by direct inhibition or the production of an inhibitory signal.
crowding, pheromone trails, recruitment, negative feedback, foraging, traffic
Web of science
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