Ant Behavior Informs Computer Search Algorithms | The Institute for Creation Research
Ant Behavior Informs Computer Search Algorithms
The social behavior of ants continues to amaze scientists with its complexity and efficiency of organization and design. In a new study, scientists have shown how ant communities foraging for food and other resources embody a complex system of behavior and path marking that creates an optimized search with minimal waste of energy and time.1 The information gleaned from this study was then applied to the design of computer search algorithms.

Social animals, like ants, that function in big groups encounter the challenge of exploring their surroundings to look for food, water, resources, and even places to make a new nest. The problem with performing these search operations with such a large group of individuals, like an ant colony, is that a huge amount of time and effort would be wasted if the ants repeatedly kept exploring the same empty areas. Therefore, a system of keeping track of what the search teams have already explored to avoid revisiting unprofitable areas is a distinct advantage. In fact, this type of efficiency-driven behavior has been observed in insects and other creatures, but little is known about the details.

In this new research, an interdisciplinary group from the University of Bristol's Faculties of Engineering and Life Sciences, hypothesized that the efficient foraging activities of the rock ant utilized some form of chemical marking and communication. This would prevent the ants from exploring the same areas multiple times. The lead investigator Edmund Hunt said, "This would be a reversal of the Hansel and Gretel story—instead of following each other's trails, they would avoid them in order to explore collectively.”2

To test their theory, an experiment was set up where ants were allowed to explore an empty arena one by one. Under one condition, the researchers cleaned the space between each ant’s search so no chemical marker of the search path would be left. In a second condition, the search spaces between ants were left unaltered. The ants operating under the second condition with no cleaning made a considerably more efficient exploration of the area without repeating the efforts of previous ants, and thus covered more space.

In human-designed search algorithms, it is important to avoid searching space and data in a redundant fashion which, under very simple conditions, is fairly easy to program. However, many real-world science and engineering problems can be highly complex, and it is difficult to develop a neat mathematical solution. Thus, the computerized sampling of diverse, complex, and large data sets often involves methods to only obtain a good approximation for a search based on statistical probabilities. The general goal is to avoid sampling too much data from unimportant or low probability portions of the overall data landscape.

By observing the search process of ants, the researchers were inspired to improve their algorithms by adopting an ant-inspired system to speed up and optimize the process. Edmund Hunt said,

We predicted that we could simulate the approach adopted by the ants in the mathematical sampling problem, by leaving behind a 'negative trail' of where has already been sampled. We found that our ant-inspired sampling method was more efficient (faster) than a standard method which does not leave a memory of where has already been sampled.2

In fact, the ant behavior was so informative that Hunt also went on to say,

Our ant-inspired sampling method may be useful in many domains, such as computational biology, for speeding up the analysis of complex problems. By describing the ants' collective behavior in informational terms, it also allows us to quantify how helpful are different aspects of their behavior to their success. For example, how much better do they perform when their pheromones are not cleaned away. 2

This research immediately calls to mind a saying of Solomon in the book of Proverbs which states, “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.”3 Truly, the evidence of God’s design shines forth once again in His amazing creation. Even the seemingly lowly ant continues to amaze and reveal the creative genius of our mighty Creator.

References
1. Edmund R. Hunt et al. 2020. The Bayesian superorganism: externalized memories facilitate distributed sampling. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2019.0848.
2. Staff Writer. An ant-inspired approach to mathematical sampling. PhysOrg. Posted on Phys.org June 19, 2020, accessed June 19, 2020.
3. Proverbs 6:6-8.

*Dr. Tomkins is Life Sciences Director at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his doctorate in genetics from Clemson University.
The Latest
CREATION.LIVE PODCAST
Scripture Memory & Archaeological Evidence | Creation.Live Podcast:...
"Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11 NKJV). Scripture memory was important thousands of years...

NEWS
Webb Telescope Continues to Challenge Big Bang
Data obtained by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) continue to challenge expectations of Big Bang proponents.1,2 The JWST is designed...

CREATION PODCAST
The Truth About the Chimp Genome (Humans & Chimps: Part 2) |...
Have scientists proven human evolution from a "common apelike ancestor," or are we being told a clever, confusing story filled with farcical...

NEWS
World's Oldest Meal
The Ediacara biota is a sporadic faunal (animal) stage containing unique soft-bodied fossil creatures in sandstone from the Ediacaran System dating...

NEWS
No Microbes on Mars
Mars is a lifeless world. But those holding to a naturalistic worldview continue to have hope—even faith—that the Red Planet was at...

NEWS
Flood Explains Grouping of Ichthyosaurs
The discovery of dozens of ichthyosaur fossils in Nevada was announced in the journal Current Biology.1 Seven 50-foot long ichthyosaurs of...

NEWS
Frog Stripe Evolution?
Color patterns in animals, whether vertebrates or invertebrates, are designed by the Creator for camouflage, warning, courtship, or, simply, for the...

CREATION PODCAST
They Lied to Us? (Humans & Chimps: Part 1) | The Creation Podcast:...
Back in the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin promoted the supposed similarity between humans and chimpanzees. Later DNA studies seemed to support...

NEWS
The Importance of Context in Sound Biblical Interpretation
During World War II, fighter planes often returned from battle riddled with bullet holes. The Allies analyzed the litany of data and mapped the areas...

NEWS
Bird Beaks: Modern and Ancient
Science is dynamic. What was considered incontrovertible for decades can be overturned with a simple discovery or more research. So it is with the...