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J Exp Biol. 2018 Sep 17;221(Pt 18). pii: jeb181669. doi: 10.1242/jeb.181669.

Bi-directional movement characteristics of Camponotus japonicus ants during nest relocation.

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State Key Laboratory of Fire Science, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230027, China.
Department of Architectural and Civil Engineering, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong 999077, China.
State Key Laboratory of Fire Science, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230027, China


Foraging and nest relocation forming a bi-directional traffic of outbound and inbound individuals in one-lane organization are two main activities in an ant's life. In this paper, we conducted an experiment on nest relocation of loaded and unloaded ants, moving back and forth between the old nest and the new one. In the experiment, we observed both uni- and bi-directional traffic flow. The headway-speed relationships indicate that the ants showed the same sensitivity to the distance headway in the two types of flow. For bi-directional traffic flow, head-on encounters and giving-way behavior between ants moving in opposing directions were a common occurrence. It took one unloaded ant 2.61 s to solve a head-on encounter with another unloaded ant. Compared with unloaded ants, loaded ants had a lower moving speed, but were less likely to be impacted by a head-on encounter. In the observation region, both sudden stop and head-on encounters contained two phases: deceleration and acceleration. Our analysis indicates that the relaxation time in the deceleration process is less than that in the acceleration process. The reduction of movement efficiency of encountering two discontinuous ants is larger than that when encountering two successive ants (0.18). This is owing to the absence of head-on encounters with following ants. The bi-directional traffic of ants under experimental conditions investigated in this study may inform future studies of high-efficiency movement in collective behavior and traffic systems.


Bi-directional ant traffic; Collective behavior; Head-on encounter; Movement efficiency

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