Behavioral correlations stretching over time are an essential but often neglected aspect of interactions among animals. These correlations pose a challenge to current behavioral-analysis methods that lack effective means to analyze complex series of interactions. Here we show that non-invasive information-theoretic tools can be used to reveal communication protocols that guide complex social interactions by measuring simultaneous flows of different types of information between subjects. We demonstrate this approach by showing that the tandem-running behavior of the ant Temnothorax rugatulus and that of the termites Coptotermes formosanus and Reticulitermes speratus are governed by different communication protocols. Our discovery reconciles the diverse ultimate causes of tandem running across these two taxa with their apparently similar signaling mechanisms. We show that bidirectional flow of information is present only in ants and is consistent with the use of acknowledgement signals to regulate the flow of directional information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere55395
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
StatePublished - Jul 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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