Inspired by the fluid-like motion of flocks of birds, researchers in the US have used techniques from soft matter physics to study the way that fire ants move.
Collective motion is ubiquitous in nature. Fire ants in particular provide a fascinating case study due to the confinement enforced by the foraging tunnels in which they move. A key factor in the motion of fire ants, and other eusocial insects, is the requirement to stop and communicate with each other, leading to traffic jams and blockages along the 50m long underground superhighways in which they travel.
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Glass-like dynamics in confined and congested ant traffic
Nick Gravish, Gregory Gold, Andrew Zangwill, Michael A.D. Goodisman and Daniel I Goldman
Soft Matter, 2015, Accepted Manuscript
DOI: 10.1039/C5SM00693G, Paper