Traffic scientists, specialists in nonlinear systems, and animal behaviorists have cooperated in a study of one of the natural geniuses of transportation engineering: the black garden ant of Europe.
Ants don't have police officers or traffic lights, but crowded streams of workers readily redirect themselves into new traffic patterns that ease congestion, according to Audrey Dussutour of Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, France. "They regulate traffic before it becomes blocked," she says.
She and her colleagues set up a pathway that forked and then reunited into a single lane leading to an alluring sugar solution. When the researchers made each branch of the fork an ample, finger-width freeway, the hundreds of ants in a nest linked