JUN 13, 2017 11:28 AM PDT

Do ants have traffic jams?


If you've ever stopped to ponder a line of ants on their commute, you might wonder how they stay so orderly. The efficiency of an ant line is so incredible that in fact some scientists are studying the dynamics behind ants' civilized transport system in order to gain tips on how we humans may better organize our traffic-filled roads.

One thing that scientists have learned is that ants use a three-lane system, with ants heading inbound to the colony using the middle lane and ants heading outbound using the outer lanes. This works because the ants moving toward the colony usually are carrying back food or organic material and are therefore less maneuverable than the ants heading out for work. So when two ants come head to head, the one without the food gives way to the other, moving to the side and creating its own outside lane. This is where psychology comes into the matter. Ant culture is quite clearly more collective than human culture, which means that when humans stuck in a traffic jam are worried about the meeting they're going to miss or being late to meet their mother-in-law, ants are working for the good of the colony and if that means adjusting to the pace of another ant carrying an extra heavy leaf, then they adjust. Do you think humans are able to do that?
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
DEC 08, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 08, 2019
NASA's Parker Solar Probe Reveals Telling Clues About Our Sun
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is currently the closest spacecraft to the Sun today. Being this close gives the spacecraft an unprecedented opportunity to...
DEC 08, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 08, 2019
What's Inside a Pufferfish May Surprise You
Pufferfish are among one of the most easily discernable fish in the ocean, especially when inflated. But do you know how these little fish are able to expa...
DEC 29, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 29, 2019
Anthills Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg
At first glance, an anthill looks like a small pile of sand on the Earth with a tiny hole in the top that ants crawl into to evade danger, but they’r...
FEB 03, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 03, 2020
Watch a Polar Bear Mom Scare Off a Bully So Her Cubs Can Eat
Polar bears realize that food can be scarce at times, and that’s a problem considering just how much they like to eat. In many cases, they find food ...
FEB 16, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 16, 2020
These Jellyfish Deliver Stings Without Touching You
Most people are accustomed to thinking that if you avoid a jellyfish’s tentacles while swimming in the ocean, then you won’t be stung. For the...
FEB 16, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 16, 2020
Just How Powerful is a Piece of Space Debris?
One of the most commonly discussed topics in space science today is the space junk problem, in which space junk collides with objects to create space debri...
Loading Comments...