Chaos–order transition in foraging behavior of ants

Lixiang Li, Haipeng Peng, Jurgen Kurths, Yixian Yang, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


The study of the foraging behavior of group animals (especially
ants) is of practical ecological importance, but it also contributes to the development of widely applicable optimization problem-solving techniques. Biologists have discovered that single ants exhibit lowdimensional deterministic-chaotic activities. However, the influences of the nest, ants’ physical abilities, and ants’ knowledge (or experience) on foraging behavior have received relatively little attention in studies of the collective behavior of ants. This paper provides new insights into basic mechanisms of effective foraging for social insects or group animals that have a home. We propose that the whole foraging process of ants is controlled by three successive strategies: hunting, homing, and path building. A mathematical model is developed to study this complex scheme. We show that the transition from chaotic to periodic regimes observed in our model results from an optimization scheme for group animals with a home. According
to our investigation, the behavior of such insects is not represented by random but rather deterministic walks (as generated by deterministic dynamical systems, e.g., by maps) in a random environment: the animals use their intelligence and experience to guide them. The more knowledge an ant has, the higher its foraging efficiency is.When young insects join the collective to forage with old and middle-aged ants, it benefits the whole colony in the long run. The resulting strategy can even be optimal.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1407083111
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2014


  • foraging dynamics
  • learning process
  • low-dimensional chaos
  • mathematical modeling
  • synchronization


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