One Million Heads, One Beautiful Mind

Unknown year Nature 2.54K Views 0 Comments
Extraordinary photography reveals the incredible swarm intelligence that lies behind animal invasions.

Millions of free-tailed bats form a living tornado in which complex information is exchanged. Huge shape-shifting shoals of herring use swarm intelligence to detect predators. Billions of alkali flies form a rolling wave to evade the gaping mouths of gulls. Vast numbers of shore birds synchronise their migration with swarming horseshoe crabs, a feat of timing unparalleled in the animal world.

Fire ants invade and destroy computer equipment and, when their nest is flooded, create living rafts with their bodies. Inside a driver ants' nest we discover the inner workings of a brain made from thousands of individuals. One swarm is even helping to save the planet from the greenhouse effect. Incredible images show the true complexity of the swarm and how their intelligence impacts on our world.

The intelligence behind such mass invasions is explored. When swarms gather, they generate a mysterious swarm intelligence, communicating and learning in amazing ways. Bees hold commitee meetings to discuss new nesting sites, flocks of quelea learn from each other where to find the best food, fire ants even use their own bodies to form a raft and escape when their nest is destroyed by floods.

All unite as one and act like a giant organism controlled by a single brain. One newly discovered swarm may even use its united strength to save the planet from the greenhouse effect! The superorganism can accomplish far more than the sum of its parts.

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