QUOTE(jod @ Jul 27 2006, 11:31 AM)
I often marvel when I look at an ant colony how well they work together. A bit like a symphony orchestra, each one has its place in life, and when they all work together well, the community functions perfectly. The queen ant or course, is the conductor.
Ants are very intriguing. When forraging for food, they deposit pheromone trails along the path they take to try and find food. With no pheromone around, each ant chooses a different path; with pheromone on the ground, they follow the strongest pheromone trail they can see.
Here's the clever bit: the ants that have the shorter paths to the food travel between the nest and the food more times per minute than the other ants who are taking a longer route. This means that the shorter paths get more pheromone deposited on them: the ants using them are going back and forth over them. As mentioned before, the ants follow the strongest pheromones, so as soon as extra pheromone has been deposited on a path to the food, more and more ants will start choosing that way to go. After a while, all the ants will be going along the shortest path to the food: that path gets more and more pheromone, unlike the longer paths, which are less used.