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The interplay between a self-organized process and an environmental template: corpse clustering under the influence of air currents in ants

Jost, Christian and Verret, Julie and Casellas, Eric and Gautaris, Jacques and Challet, Mélanie and Lluc, Jacques and Blanco, Stéphane and Clifton, Michaël and Theraulaz, Guy The interplay between a self-organized process and an environmental template: corpse clustering under the influence of air currents in ants. (2007) Journal of The Royal Society, Interface, vol. 4 (n° 12). pp. 107-116. ISSN 1742-5662

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2006.0156

Abstract

Many spatial patterns observed in nature emerge from local processes and their interactions with the local environment. The clustering of objects by social insects represents such a pattern formation process that can be observed at both the individual and the collective level. In this paper, we study the interaction between air currents and clustering behaviour in order to address the coordinating mechanisms at the individual level that underlie the spatial pattern formation process in a heterogeneous environment. We choose the corpse clustering behaviour of the ant Messor sanctus as an experimental paradigm. In a specifically designed experimental set-up with a well-controlled laminar air flow (approx. 1 cm sK1), we first quantify the modulation of the individual corpse aggregation behaviour as a function of corpse density, air flow intensity and the ant’s position with respect to corpse piles and air flow direction. We then explore by numerical simulation how the forming corpse piles modify the laminar air flow around them and link this result with the individual behaviour modulation. Finally, we demonstrate on the collective level that this laminar air flow leads to an elongation and a slow displacement of the formed corpse piles in the direction of the air current. Both the individual behaviour modulated by air flow and the air flow modulated by the forming corpse piles can explain the pile patterns observed on the collective level as a stigmergic process. We discuss the generality of this coordinating mechanism to explain the clustering phenomena in heterogeneous environments reported in the literature.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Thanks to Royal Society editor. The definitive version is available at http://journals.royalsociety.org.com The original PDF of the article can be found at The Journal of the Royal Society Interface website : http://journals.royalsociety.org
Audience (journal):International peer-reviewed journal
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Institution: Université de Toulouse > Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse - INPT
Université de Toulouse > Université Paul Sabatier-Toulouse III - UPS
French research institutions > Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - CNRS
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Deposited By: Hélène Dubernard

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