Phase transition between ordered and disordered foraging in Pharaoh's ants

Beekman, M, Sumpter, D J and Ratnieks, F L (2001) Phase transition between ordered and disordered foraging in Pharaoh's ants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98 (17). pp. 9703-9706. ISSN 0027-8424

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The complex collective behavior seen in many insect societies strongly suggests that a minimum number of workers are required for these societies to function effectively. Here we investigated the transition between disordered and ordered foraging in the Pharaoh's ant. We show that small colonies forage in a disorganized manner, with a transition to organized pheromone-based foraging in larger colonies. We also show that when food sources are difficult to locate through independent searching, this transition is first-order and exhibits hysteresis, comparable to a first-order phase transition found in many physical systems. To our knowledge, this is the first experimental evidence of a behavioral phase transition between a maladaptive (disorganized) and an adaptive (organized) state.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Francis Ratnieks
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 19:16
Last Modified: 21 May 2012 15:48
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