An ant colony operates without a central control or hierarchy, and no ant directs another. Instead, ants decide what to do based on the rate, rhythm and pattern of individual encounters and interactions, resulting in a dynamic network that coordinates the functions of the colony.
This book provides a revealing and accessible look into ant behavior from this complex systems perspective. Focusing on the moment-to-moment behavior of ant colonies, the author investigates the role of interaction networks in regulating colony behavior and relations among ant colonies. She shows how ant behavior within and between colonies arises from local interactions of individuals, and how interaction networks develop as a colony grows older and larger.
"In her new book, written in a lively style and accessible to a general audience, Gordon describes the sophisticated experiments that led her to intriguing insights about how an ant colony can solve vital problems, such as finding the shortest path to the best food source, allocating workers to different tasks or defending a territory from rivals."
– Times Higher Education
"This volume provides a well-focused review of how complex biological systems develop and function, with applications well beyond understanding ant colonies. It may compel behavioral and community ecologists, as well as other non-biologists, to consider new perspectives in understanding interacting systems."
"This concise, well-written book will be of interest to biologists and complexity scientists, but is written to also be accessible to non-scientists [...] Ant Encounters is an enjoyable read, full of neat experiments and lively anecdotes illustrating the scientific points."
– Elva J. H. Washington, Trends in Ecology and Evolution
List of Illustrations ix Preface xi Chapter 1: The Ant Colony as a Complex System 1 Chapter 2: Colony Organization 14 The Diversity of Ant Behavior 14 From Individual to Collective Behavior 19 Division of Labor 25 Ants Switch Tasks 30 Age Polyethism 33 What Ants Respond To 37 Task Allocation 41 Chapter 3: Interaction Networks 45 What Happens at Network Nodes 47 The Pattern of Interaction Is the Message 49 Rate and Memory 57 Individual Variation 83 Species Differences 67 Chapter 4: Colony Size 75 Colony Growth 75 Task Allocation and Colony Size 83 Ecology, Behavior, and Mature Colony Size 90 Chapter 5: Relations with Neighbors 96 Relations with Neighbors of the Same Species 97 Interactions between Species 107 Invasive Species 112 From Ecology to Behavior 117 Chapter 6: Ant Evolution 121 Coevolution of Ants and Plants 121 Evolution of Colony Organization 125 Natural Selection in Action 131 Chapter 7: Modeling Ant Behavior 141 Notes 147 Index 165
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Deborah M. Gordon is professor of biology at Stanford University. She is the author of" Ants at Work" (Norton).