Experimental investigation of ant traffic under crowded conditions

Laure Anne Poissonnier, Sebastien Motsch, Jacques Gautrais, Jerome Buhl, Audrey Dussutour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Efficient transportation is crucial for urban mobility, cell function and the survival of animal groups. From humans driving on the highway, to ants running on a trail, the main challenge faced by all collective systems is how to prevent traffic jams in crowded environments. Here, we show that ants, despite their behavioral simplicity, have managed the tour de force of avoiding the formation of traffic jams at high density. At the macroscopic level, we demonstrated that ant traffic is best described by a two-phase flow function. At low densities there is a clear linear relationship between ant density and the flow, while at large density, the flow remains constant and no congestion occurs. From a microscopic perspective, the individual tracking of ants under varying densities revealed that ants adjust their speed and avoid time consuming interactions at large densities. Our results point to strategies by which ant colonies solve the main challenge of transportation by self-regulating their behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere48945
StatePublished - Oct 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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