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Ants invented the internet. Sorry, Al…

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Or something like that. From Priceonomics:

The Independent Discovery of TCP/IP, By Ants

After years of watching ant colonies in the Arizona desert, Stanford biologist Debra Gordon made a discovery: harvester ants, the species she was studying, had a very particular foraging technique.

Theydidn;twaste a lot of ants in hard times.

But when Gordon showed her data to Prabhakar to model computationally, he had a revelation. “The algorithm the ants were using to discover how much food there is available is essentially the same as that used in the Transmission Control Protocol,” he said.

If we consider that the ant colony’s goal is to collect more food and expend fewer ants, and a server’s goal is to send a file and avoid congestion or overload, then the similarities are clear. Sending a packet through the Internet is analogous to releasing a forager ant into the wild. Getting an ack of a packet’s receipt is analogous to a forager ant returning with food. If lots of acks come back quickly, this corresponds to good bandwidth availability—just like if a lot of ants come back quickly, this corresponds to good food availability. Good availability means the release of more ants or more packets. And if ants or acks come back slowly, or don’t come back at all, then release is either slowed or shut down entirely. In the case of harvester ants, shut down means foragers stop going out for a while. In the case of the Internet, the connection times out. More.

No wonder there are so many ants in the world.

Nature is inexplicable without coming to terms with intelligence and information. “Natural selection”does not just randomly select for these complex information systems; ants are expendable. Something else is going on here. Stay tuned.

See also: Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain

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We present a large-scale molecular phylogeny of the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), based on 4.5 kilobases of sequence data from six gene regions extracted from 139 of the 288 described extant genera, representing 19 of the 20 subfamilies. All but two subfamilies are recovered as monophyletic. Divergence time estimates calibrated by minimum age constraints from 43 fossils indicate that most of the subfamilies representing extant ants arose much earlier than previously proposed but only began to diversify during the Late Cretaceous to Early Eocene. This period also witnessed the rise of angiosperms and most herbivorous insects.
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/312/5770/101 Mung

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