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Army Ants Make Bridges From Their Bodies For Shortcuts

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(Mirror Daily, United States) – Nature finds a way, and army ants make bridges from their bodies for shortcuts in order to create the best and possible way to get to their destination. However, it’s not mindless building until their structure collapses. It’s a well thought-out frame.

A team of international researchers have observed colonies of army ants across the forests of Central and South America. The tiny insects have a remarkable and efficient way of crossing perilous terrains. They essentially bridge the gaps with their bodies, creating a plank for others to cross. This is done for the purpose of getting materials, food, or other resources for the sake of colony.

It’s an exceptional feat that proves unrelenting cooperation works very well at allowing the army ants to thrive. However, it seems that there’s even more to it than previously thought. According to the co-author of the study, Dr. Christopher Reid, who is also a researcher at the University of Sydney, army ants move, readjust, and dismantle these bridges in response to their needs.

They effectively think of the cost-versus-benefit before  many members of their colony band together to form a bridge. While it provides an excellent mode of quick transportation, it also lowers the number of ants who can actually start gathering resources. This means that not every shortcut is worth the loss in sheer workforce. The ants calculate these costs, and act accordingly.

For example, they build upon their bridges of bodies and essentially move them to better locations. The structures are also lengthened by adding more and more members at a time. This happens until it’s no longer beneficial for them to add more to the bridge instead of sending those ants to collect what they need. It’s all for the benefit of the colony, and their methods are efficient in working toward that goal.

Up until a certain point, those bridges are worth it. However, they can also recognize when the benefit of speedier gatherings are no longer equal to the cost of putting their workers at a standstill. This happens through pure observation.

When the ants forming the bridge note that pace has slowed, it dismantles in a matter of seconds. It’s an incredibly dynamic system, which is rooted in the practicality of building and destroying when needed. According to Dr. Reid, this was noticed in situations where they could’ve built even better shortcuts, but they stopped because it wouldn’t be worth the cost.

Their observations could have implications for self-assembling materials. It could help in designing an algorithm that would benefit reconfigurable materials, or robotic swarms used for rescue missions. It’s another element that could be taken into consideration in the field of robotics.

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