Ants’ hive mind

The insects make better decisions collectively than when on their own

When faced with too many options, an ant makes better choices when it relies on others.

GROUP THINK Ants do a better job finding a suitable home as a group than they do on their own, a new study finds. Takao Sasaki and James S. Waters

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.

Sarah Zielinski is the Editor, Print at Science News Explores. She has a B.A. in biology from Cornell University and an M.A. in journalism from New York University. She writes about ecology, plants and animals.

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