Attraction, Dynamics, and Phase Transitions in Fire Ant Tower-Building Journal Article uri icon



  • AbstractMany insect species, and even some vertebrates, assemble their bodies to form multi-functional materials that combine sensing, computation, and actuation. The tower-building behavior of red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, presents a key example of this phenomenon of collective construction. While biological studies of collective construction focus on behavioral assays to measure the dynamics of formation and studies of swarm robotics focus on developing hardware that can assemble and interact, algorithms for designing such collective aggregations have been mostly overlooked. We address this gap by formulating an agent-based model for collective tower-building with a set of behavioral rules that incorporate local sensing of neighboring agents. We find that an attractive force makes tower building possible. Next, we explore the trade-offs between attraction and random motion to characterize the dynamics and phase transition of the tower building process. Lastly, we provide an optimization tool that may be used to design towers of specific shapes, mechanical loads, and dynamical properties such as mechanical stability and mobility of the center of mass.

publication date

  • December 4, 2019

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • January 28, 2021 6:45 AM

Full Author List

  • Nave GK; Mitchell NT; Dick JAC; Schuessler T; Lagarrigue JA; Peleg O

author count

  • 6

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