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Close-up of four ants at work on the trunk of a tree
Ants at work

Cooperation in nature

There are numerous examples from nature of cooperation

  • Insects pollinating plants
  • Birds eating food between teeth of hippos

Specifically relating to cooperating on a task via communication

  • Bees dancing in hive - telling others where food can be found.
  • Ants searching for food -showing others where it is.

In fact methods such as this have inspired artificial intelligence

Let’s look at the example of ant pheromone trails.

Ants searching for food

Ants search for food - but how do they find their way back to nest?

  • They lay down a chemical scent (pheromone) on the way out, during their search.
  • They follow this pheromone trail back to the nest.

But if one finds food, it will want to communicate this to other ants - how? - It lays down a stronger scent.

When other ants searching for food find such a trail they stop their own search, and follow the trail to the food. If an ant goes the wrong way, it will return to the nest. Arriving back at the nest, it turns round and follows the trail to the food. If there are many routes to the food, the shortest route will be used the most, and will have the strongest pheromone trail. So not only will the ant find food - it will do so via shortest route.

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Begin Robotics

University of Reading

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