Distributed computation in foraging desert ants

For computer scientists, ants are most familiar from ant colony optimization. These algorithms rely on simulating how ants lay, follow, and modify pheromone trails to find efficient paths from their hives to food sources. Hence, it might come as a surprise that this is not a universal feature of ants. The cataglyphis niger desert ant makes its home in the deserts of the middle east where the constantly shifting terrain makes pheromone trails ineffective outside of the nest. As such, all communication is done inside the hive with the ants being almost completely autonomous once they wander into the outside world. This makes them a perfect animal for looking at distributed computing and the problem of coordinating action in a noisy environment with a limited amount of computation.
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