How ants could influence urban planning

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How ants could influence urban planning

The way Australian meat ants build their colonies could provide urban planners with an efficient means of building new neighbourhoods, according to a new report published by The Royal Society journal Interface.

The Local cost minimization in ant transport networks: from small-scale data to large-scale trade-offs report brings together data from a two-year field study into how ants construct trails linking separate nests. The authors then used this data to create a larger-scale version that could be used by urban developers to build new towns.

According to the authors, meat ants were chosen as they create transport networks that resemble those of human transport networks (linking one site to another) and – as the trails are large and kept clear of vegetation – are “probably costly to build and maintain”.

By studying the rule of construction the ants follow, the scientists created an algorithm that not only incorporates the robustness and efficiency of the ant networks, but is also cost effective.

“What is amazing about these ants is that they don’t rely on engineering to plan their networks, however it turns out that they are able to find a specific balance between cheapness, efficiency and robustness,” co-author and researcher in biology at the University of Sydney Tanya Latty said. […]