Crowdsourcing insects rely on their collective brain power
When ants are confronted with information overload and face too many decisions — about where to live, for instance — they revert to the wisdom of the crowd.
Despite having a brain smaller than the point of a pin, one ant species uses an elaborate system of sending out scouts to look for new homes. The scouts report back, and then the whole colony votes, according to researchers at Arizona State University.
The ants use chemistry and crowdsourcing, wrote associate professor of biology Stephen C. Pratt and graduate student Takao Sasaki at Arizona State University, in the current issue of Current Biology.
"They have tiny brains, but nonetheless, they are able to do quite a bit with them," Pratt said. Honey bees also have small brains but each brain has about a million neurons, which collectively have "quite a lot of processing power." Bees use a tail-wagging dance to communicate.
The ants involved in the ASU study, Temnothorax rugatulus are red, about one-tenth of an inch long, and live in crevices between rocks in forests in the western U.S. and parts of Europe.