Cooperative transport by ants
Speaker:Ofer Feinerman
Time:14:30 - 15:30
Location:Lidow Rosen Auditorium (323)

Many biological systems are composed of a large number of similar interacting units that display emergent collective behaviors. The similarities between these and well-understood statistical physics systems raises the possibility of describing biological groups using physics derived formalisms. We apply this approach to study how many ants cooperatively transport a large object which none of them can move on its own. We show that while describing the ants as simple interacting particles is useful, this actually places control in the hands of intelligent, navigationally competent, individuals. Indeed, when such individuals are removed from the group it collectively behaves as, an almost deterministic, interacting physical system. Tracking the ants' problem solving behavior in natural contexts, we then go on to demonstrate the ingredients of collective biological cognition: individual cognition, collective scale phenomena which are approachable using the physics toolbox, and bidirectional information flows between these two organizational scales.