Emergent regulation of ant foraging frequency through a computationally inexpensive forager movement rule

Lior Baltiansky, Guy Frankel, Ofer Feinerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ant colonies regulate foraging in response to their collective hunger, yet the mechanism behind this distributed regulation remains unclear. Previously, by imaging food flow within ant colonies we showed that the frequency of foraging events declines linearly with colony sati-ation (Greenwald et al., 2018). Our analysis implied that as a forager distributes food in the nest, two factors affect her decision to exit for another foraging trip: her current food load and its rate of change. Sensing these variables can be attributed to the forager’s individual cognitive ability. Here, new analyses of the foragers’ trajectories within the nest imply a different way to achieve the observed regulation. Instead of an explicit decision to exit, foragers merely tend toward the depth of the nest when their food load is high and toward the nest exit when it is low. Thus, the colony shapes the forager’s trajectory by controlling her unloading rate, while she senses only her current food load. Using an agent-based model and mathematical analysis, we show that this simple mechanism robustly yields emergent regulation of foraging frequency. These findings demonstrate how the embedding of individuals in physical space can reduce their cognitive demands without compro-mising their computational role in the group.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere77659
Number of pages23
StatePublished - 17 Apr 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Emergent regulation of ant foraging frequency through a computationally inexpensive forager movement rule'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this