Ants communicate similarly to internet protocol

Date:   Tuesday , September 04, 2012

A new study which includes an Indian-origin researcher has found that an ant's species called the harvester ants hunt for food in a way that is same as the Internet's Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). Stanford University’s Biology professor, Deborah Gordon, wrote an algorithm that described how harvester ants go in search of food and realized that it is similar to how files are transferred on computer networks.

The computer science professor of Indian origin from Stanford University, Balaji Prabhakar, agreed that it was almost exactly the same as how internet protocols figured. The ants were able to specifically decipher how much bandwidth was needed to transfer info similar to transferring a file using HTML, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Gordon's research was recently published in the PLoS Computational Biology. According to the study, it was found that the rate at which harvester ants leave the nest to search for food corresponds to the amount of food available.

The ants then venture out individually and do not return to the nest until they find food. The more food there is, the faster the ants return and the more ants leave the nest to retrieve it. If there is less food available, the ants return empty handed and the foraging slows or stops. This process is almost identical to how the internet manages data congestion using a process called Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP.

Professor Gordon and Prabhakar are now calling the process "the Anternet".

It is already a known fact that ants can carry 100 times their body weight. There are around 11,000 ant species in the world, Gordon noted. And how many algorithms are hiding in their surprisingly brilliant insect brains? And what can we learn from them? These are some of the most intriguing questions yet to be answered.