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Rock ant decisions swayed by six-legged social media

Collective choice changes when scouts say ‘follow me’

3:30pm, February 23, 2016
rock ants

SOCIAL SHARING  Collective decisions can change when rock ants start leading nest mates one by one to check out a possible new home.

Rock ants don’t tweet, but they do recruit followers. And that social input can change the outcome of a group decision.  

Colonies of Temnothorax albipennis ants decide as a group which small craggy crevice to move into. They can even compare averages of a sort when choosing between nests that stay comfy for different proportions of time, an earlier study found. Yet those choices based on comparing averages turn out differently if ants start leading nest mates over to check out appealing sites, researchers say in an upcoming issue of Behavioral Ecology.

“A small amount of social information can massively influence the outcome of a collective decision,” reports paper coauthor Dominic Burns of the University of Bristol in England.

The Bristol lab of Nigel Franks has studied these small ants

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