Web edition: October 2, 2012
When faced with too many options, an ant makes better choices when it relies on others.
Researchers at Arizona State University tracked individual ants marked with colored dots as they selected a home out of a set of eight nest sites, half good and half poor. On their own, ants got overwhelmed and chose good sites only 50 percent of the time — no better than chance.
But when the whole colony was put to the test, each ant visited only one or two sites, limiting information overload. As the ants gather outside better nests, a consensus emerges and a home is found, the researchers report in the Oct. 9 Current Biology.