ants are really great species to use to study behaviour in social groups.. plus they are small and easy to keep in laboratories (except the ants here in ireland which are more difficult to work with than those in america or africa where my researcher Colby has worked on them).
Ants are capable of solving really complicated tasks such as finding the fastest way to food, or picking the best nest site among lots of choices. They do this without being very clever as individuals, but put them together and you get a special kind of intelligence – Swarm Intelligence. We can track the movement of individual ants as they run around solving these problems and use this information to work out what rules they are using and how they manage to make decisions as a group when they have no clear leader telling them what to do.
In human societies, we put people in charge and let them tell us what to do – schools, armies, police etc… But in animals groups like in ants, there is no-one really in charge, and instead their decisions have to emerge, or appear out of no-where from the collective. Its real “order out of chaos” and i find it fascinating!