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Stanford biologist and computer scientist discover ants use TCP-like communication

Ants said to use TCP-like communication system says Stanford biologist and computer scientist

By: Anthony Garreffa from Aug 26, 2012 @ 20:25 CDT

The work of a Stanford ant biologist, and a computer scientist have found that harvester ants on the hunt for food, use a similar method to that of the protocols used to control traffic on the Internet.


Deborah Gordon, a biology professor at Stanford, have been studying ants for more than 20 years. When Gordon discovered how the harvester ant colonies were sending out more ants to get food, she called in Balaji Prabhakar, who is a professor of computer science at Stanford, who is an expert on how files are transferred on a computer network.

At first, he didn't know why Gordon had called him, as ants had nothing to do with his field, but the next day, he realised:

The next day it occurred to me, 'Oh wait, this is almost the same as how [Internet] protocols discover how much bandwidth is available for transferring a file! The algorithm the ants were using to discover how much food there is available is essentially the same as that used in the Transmission Control Protocol.

At the moment, it looks like harvester ants use the same TCP-like transmission in order to communicate. Gordon found that the rate of which harvester ants leave the nest for the search of food, corresponds to food availability.

You can read the entire story over at the source.

The discovery is quite amazing, and I really hope millions of ants band together for an Anterweb startup. Maybe we can have some huge companies fund them?