Social insect behavior has been widely used as a model for bio-inspired engineering solutions, for example for optimal routing in telecommunication network. We will investigate whether insights into scaling laws of self-organized biological networks can be transferred to the design of human-made self-organized networks. This will lead to an improved understanding of their fundamental operating principles and should ultimately contribute to the design of better engineering solutions.
The present sub-project is specifically concerned with the question why only very large ant colonies invest into building of colony infrastructure that is expensive to construct from a metabolic point of view. Our model systems are ants of the genus Atta (leaf cutters), which are among the largest colonies of all social insects. In contrast to almost all other species these invest large amounts into resources in the architectural construction of trails (by clearing and leveling forest ground). This is generally assumed to enable the colony to forage more efficiently. We specifically investigate the mechanisms, benefits, and energy balance of trail building quantitatively through a combination of mathematical modeling with experimental work in the lab and in the field.
The collection contains time-lapse photos and videos from recordings of animal behavioral experiments.