Ant-nihilate Traffic

What’s the ants-er to road-rage?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying, perchance – it’s ANTS!

Ugh, traffic. Right? We’re all just trying to get from point A to point B! What’s the hold-up?

Audrey Dussutour at Toulouse University in France thinks ants are the ideal commuters. Her team built a plastic bridge and then observed ants crossing it to access food. To mimic real traffic conditions, they added more ants to the mix or made the bridge smaller. 

The researchers expected that more ants would mean more ant congestion. But actually, the flow of ants remained consistent, all the way up to eighty percent occupancy! Human drivers can handle just forty percent before our traffic flow slows to a halt.

What makes ants so f-ant-tastic? Their altruistic behaviour! Going too fast causes stop and go traffic. If things get too crowded, ants will slow down or even avoid crossing the bridge. Slow and steady wins the ant-race! 

So when traffic is really bad, here’s the ant-i-dote. Stay off the main drag – or just stay home!

Will I take this opportunity to sleep in an extra 15 minutes? ANTS-OLUTELY! 

Reference: Poissonnier, L. A., Motsch, S., Gautrais, J., Buhl, J., & Dussutour, A. (2019). Experimental investigation of ant traffic under crowded conditions. eLife8, e48945.