Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 2 – 2002

Deborah Gordon, Biology
Susan Holmes, Statistics

An ant colony operates without central control. Each ant uses local information; in the aggregate, colonies make complex adjustments in behaviour. In harvester ants, brief antennal contacts are important in task decisions. These interactions among moving ants create a network.

Our project will model this network, and explore how colony size affects network behaviour. Another network is the genetic relationships among colonies. We will analyze this to find out if some colonies are more successful than others in producing offspring. This is a first step towards learning how social organization is currently evolving in this ant population. Network dynamics are important throughout biology. Ant colonies provide a simple model of networks that can be easily observed.