Biologists and experts in the field of computer systems at Stanford University, found that the behavior of harvester ants that are foraging, similar to the protocols that control traffic on the Internet.
At first glance, between the ants and the Internet have nothing in common. But Stanford researchers have found that harvester ants decide on the number of deportees in search of food workers, about the same as the Internet protocols define the width of the data link. The researchers call this phenomenon "Anternet" (from the English. Ant - ant).
Transmission Control Protocol or TCP - an algorithm that controls the delivery of information in the Internet. When transferring data from source A to destination B, the file is broken into packets. When B receives the next package, it sends the acknowledgment to A, the packet is delivered.
This feedback mechanism allows TCP to avoid congestion of information: if an acknowledgment is returned more slowly than was delivered, it serves as an indicator of low bandwidth and slows down the source of the data transfer. If the confirmation comes quickly, the source increases the speed of delivery. This process allows the recipient to determine the bandwidth and optimized in accordance with its baud rate.
It turned out that the bearded harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) behave the same way when searching for food. Researchers found that the number of deportees in search of food the individual workers, correlates with the amount of food available.
The ants do not come back to the nest as long as they find food. If a lot of grain, the workers returned more quickly and the number of deportees ants for food increases. But if the ants are starting to come back slowly, the number of deported workers is reduced or even reduced to zero.
Computer expert from Stanford, Balaji Prabhakar, wrote an algorithm that predicts the behavior of ants, depending on the amount of food available (channel width). It turned out that this algorithm is similar to TCP, almost mirror images of the behavior of ants in the course of the experiments.
In addition, it was found out that the behavior of ants coincides with two other phases of TCP. The first - the exponential phase of growth or a slow start when the source increases the number of bytes Sending as long as is answered.
Another protocol, called time out, takes effect when interference or interruption of the connection and stops sending packets. Similarly, when workers do not return to the nest for longer than 20 minutes, the next batch job is not sent.
According to the researchers, further studies of ant colonies, can afford to improve our network technologies.
How to tell the biologist Deborah Gordon, there are 11,000 species of ants living in a variety of conditions, and colliding with all existing environmental problems. "Ants are evolutionarily trained to deal with such problems, which we could not take into account that might be useful in computer systems."
"Algorithms ants are honed to the most simple, distributed and scalable - the qualities that are needed in our distributed systems," - she said. "I believe that as we study the behavior of ants, we do find useful for the implementation of network algorithms."