Such sporadic monitoring of the social environment may reduce information overload and enhance the robustness of complex societies, researchers at the University of Bristol in UK said.
They tracked the movement patterns of lone rock ants (Temnothorax albipennis) exploring a large arena outside the nest, both when the arena was clean and when it contained chemical information (pheromones or other cues) left by previous nest-mates.
The researchers discovered a relationship between the duration and average speed of an ant's movements, and also established that movements mostly fluctuated around a constant average speed.
The average speed increased in anticipation of a longer movement, suggesting that movement durations were somehow determined in advance.
This was the case both when chemical information was absent and when it was present, suggesting ants probably only fully respond to social information in between movements.
The findings were published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.


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