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How do ant colonies get anything done, when no one is in charge? An ant colony operates without a central control or hierarchy, and no ant directs another. Instead, ants decide what to do based on the rate, rhythm, and pattern of individual encounters and interactions-resulting in a dynamic network that coordinates the functions of the colony. Ant Encounters provides a revealing and accessible look into ant behavior from this complex systems perspective.
Focusing on the moment-to-moment behavior of ant colonies, Deborah Gordon investigates the role of interaction networks in regulating colony behavior and relations among ant colonies. She shows how ant behavior within and between colonies arises from local interactions of individuals, and how interaction networks develop as a colony grows older and larger. The more rapidly ants react to their encounters, the more sensitively the entire colony responds to changing conditions. Gordon explores whether such reactive networks help a colony to survive and reproduce, how natural selection shapes colony networks, and how these structures compare to other analogous complex systems.
Ant Encounters sheds light on the organizational behavior, ecology, and evolution of these diverse and ubiquitous social insects.
"In her new book, written in a lively style and accessible to a general audience, Gordon describes the sophisticated experiments that led her to intriguing insights about how an ant colony can solve vital problems, such as finding the shortest path to the best food source, allocating workers to different tasks or defending a territory from rivals."—Times Higher Education
"This volume provides a well-focused review of how complex biological systems develop and function, with applications well beyond understanding ant colonies. It may compel behavioral and community ecologists, as well as other non-biologists, to consider new perspectives in understanding interacting systems."—Choice
"This concise, well-written book will be of interest to biologists and complexity scientists, but is written to also be accessible to non-scientists. . . . Ant Encounters is an enjoyable read, full of neat experiments and lively anecdotes illustrating the scientific points."—Elva J. H. Washington, Trends in Ecology and Evolution
"[T]he good and easy to understand introduction to the role of interaction networks in colony behavior—or ants as a natural complex system based on interactions networks—as well as the style of writing makes the book an entertaining read."—Heike Feldhaar, Basic and Applied Ecology
1 The ant colony as a complex system 1
2 Colony organization 14
3 Interaction networks 45
4 Colony size 75
5 Relations with neighbors 96
6 Ant evolution 121
7 Modeling ant behavior 141