Ants: In colony they behave like a single brain


How do ants make decisions? Also, how do they do it through a single brain ? Ants have a single brain that functions as a neural network . Their decision making is based on external and internal inputs leading the whole colony to act in the same way. Here is the conclusion reached by two researchers from Rockefeller University. An answer that shows how ants make group decisions.

The study based its analysis on a habitual decision for most ants: when to leave the nest due to being too hot . The two scholars thus reconstructed an artificial nest with temperature monitored under the eye of a camera. Then they put in bigger and bigger ant colonies. They maintained an adult to maggot ratio of 2: 1. They then raised the temperature of the nest to control the reaction of the ants. It is attested that sooner or later they leave the nest due to the heat, but the reason that causes the exodus changes in relation to the size of the colony .

The colony made up of 36 workers and 18 larvae ran away when it reached 34 ° C. The colony instead made up of 200 workers and 100 larvae resisted over 36 degrees. However, the escape process is always the same. The ants continue to work until a certain threshold is reached. After that, they all start moving together. What is it that drives the decision? It is external (heat) and internal (colony size) factors and the calculation of costs and benefits that affect the colony’s collective decisions. Each ant is a neuron so the colony is a brain Many aspects are not yet clear that studies will certainly analyze better in the future.


At the moment we have succeeded in disrupting the system and measuring its consequences with precision; the ultimate goal is to be able to do reverse engineering to understand exactly how the whole system works.


Daniel Kronauer, one of the two authors and scholars

  • Ant colonies behave as if they were a single brain (


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