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Naturwissenschaften. 2015 Apr;102(3-4):17. doi: 10.1007/s00114-015-1267-6. Epub 2015 Mar 27.

Effect of density on traffic and velocity on trunk trails of Formica pratensis.

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Leibnitz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) e.V., Eberswalder Straße 84, 15374, Müncheberg (Mark), Germany,


The allocation of large numbers of workers facilitates the swift intake of locally available resources which is essential for ant colony survival. To organise the traffic between nest and food source, the black-meadow ant Formica pratensis establishes permanent trunk trails, which are maintained by the ants. To unravel the ant organisation and potential traffic rules on these trails, we analysed velocity and lane segregation under various densities by experimentally changing feeding regimes. Even under the highest ant densities achieved, we never observed any traffic jams. On the contrary, velocity increased after supplementary feeding despite an enhanced density. Furthermore, inbound ants returning to the nest had a higher velocity than those leaving the colony. Whilst at low and medium density the ants used the centre of the trail, they used the full width of the trail at high density. Outbound ants also showed some degree of lane segregation which contributes to traffic organisation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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