University of Birmingham > Talks@bham > Theoretical Physics Seminars > Ant colonies as complex systems

Ant colonies as complex systems

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  • UserProf Kim Christensen, Imperial College
  • ClockThursday 26 November 2009, 13:45-15:00
  • HouseTheory Library.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Dimitri M Gangardt.

Movement is the observable signature of behaviour. Excitingly, in recent years, studies of animal movement patterns have increased due, at least in part, to the development of tracking technologies. In a diverse species among the insects, fish, birds and mammals, movement is studied in relation to searching, foraging, defence, dispersal, migration, aggregation and segregation. In social insects, studying the movement of individuals within the confines of the colony nest is crucial for understanding their social organisation. Here we show our first results from studying the movement patterns of individual workers within the nest. We manipulated population density by offering each colony to occupy in a temporal sequence of nests with increasing or decreasing area. We found that the distribution of individual average moving velocity is continuous at both high and low population density. There is also evidence of some constraint on individual movement at high density. Instantaneous velocity is lower and flight length shorter when the nest area per ant is smaller. Furthermore, at low density, a worker’s average moving velocity is positively related to the fraction of time it was moving (a measure of its activity) while this relationship appears to be absent at high density. Our results also show that flight length follows a broad distribution and that movement bout duration has a fractal character. These two signatures of a complex system pose the question whether the observed individual movement patterns are due to interactions or to individual ant behaviour.

This talk is part of the Theoretical Physics Seminars series.

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