We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Ants Have Used Internet Algorithms for Ages, Don't Act Pretentious About It

Scientists have discovered that certain harvester ants work the same way Internet protocols do. Discworld's Hex, anyone?

We all know that ants are amazing biological creations, but it was only recently that researchers discovered that a certain breed of harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) behave in a way that is not dissimilar from the way Internet protocols discover how much bandwidth is available for data transfer.

They're calling it the 'Anternet'.

Stanford Professor of Computer Science Balaji Prabhakar--along with his colleague Deborah Gordon, a biology professor--came to the realization that the algorithm utilized by the ants to determine how much food is available is essentially the same as the one used in the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP).

Most interestingly of all, the researchers discovered that the ants mirrored two other phases of TCP. One phase, which is known as "slow start," is an algorithm that TCP uses to control congestion within the network by transmitting a large wave of packets to gauge available bandwidth; harvester ants apparently work using a similar principle: They first send out foragers to determine availability before fine-tuning the rate of outgoing foragers.

Similarly, there is a protocol known as time-out that occurs when a data transfer link is broken or disrupted. And sure enough, harvester ants behave much the same: If foragers do not return after more than twenty minutes, no more harvester ants are sent out.

Prabhakar told Stanford Engineering News that if this discovery had been made in the 1970s, prior to the invention of the TCP, harvester ants could have influenced the design of the Internet.

[Check out GeekTech for more news on hacks, gadgets, and all things geek. And follow along on Twitter and Facebook.]

IDG UK Sites

iPad Air 2 release date, price, specs, new features: world's thinnest tablet also gets Touch ID

IDG UK Sites

Why you shouldn't buy the iPad mini 3: No wonder Apple gave it 10 seconds of stage time

IDG UK Sites

Will Photoshop work with Yosemite? And will Illustrator, After Effects, Premiere Pro or the other A?......

IDG UK Sites

Should I upgrade from Mavericks to OS X 10.10 Yosemite? What you need to know before updating to...