Computational model of collective nest selection by ants with heterogeneous acceptance thresholds

Naoki Masuda, Thomas O'Shea-Wheller, Carolina Doran Borges De Sousa, Nigel Franks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
275 Downloads (Pure)


Collective decision-making is a characteristic of societies ranging from ants to humans. The ant Temnothorax albipennis is known to use quorum sensing to collectively decide on a new home; emigration to a new nest site occurs when the number of ants favouring the new site becomes quorate. There are several possible mechanisms by which ant colonies can select the best nest site among alternatives based on a quorum mechanism. In this study, we use computational models to examine the implications of heterogeneous acceptance thresholds across individual ants in collective nest choice behaviour. We take a minimalist approach to develop a differential equation model and a corresponding non-spatial agent-based model. We show, consistent with existing empirical evidence, that heterogeneity in acceptance thresholds is a viable mechanism for efficient nest choice behaviour. In particular, we show that the proposed models show speed–accuracy trade-offs and speed–cohesion trade-offs when we vary the number of scouts or the quorum threshold.
Original languageEnglish
Article number140533
Number of pages16
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number6
Early online date9 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • collective decision-making
  • wisdom of crowds
  • social insects
  • response thresholds


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