Network-based model of the growth of termite nests

Eom, Young Ho; Perna, Andrea; Fortunato, Santo; Darrouzet, Eric; Theraulaz, Guy; Jost, Christian
We present a model for the growth of the transportation network inside nests of the social insect subfamily Termitinae (Isoptera, termitidae). These nests consist of large chambers (nodes) connected by tunnels (edges). The model based on the empirical analysis of the real nest networks combined with pruning (edge removal, either random or weighted by betweenness centrality) and a memory effect (preferential growth from the latest added chambers) successfully predicts emergent nest properties (degree distribution, size of the largest connected component, average path lengths, backbone link ratios, and local graph redundancy). The two pruning alternatives can be associated with different genuses in the subfamily. A sensitivity analysis on the pruning and memory parameters indicates that Termitinae networks favor fast internal transportation over efficient defense strategies against ant predators. Our results provide an example of how complex network organization and efficient network properties can be generated from simple building rules based on local interactions and contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms that come into play for the formation of termite networks and of biological transportation networks in general.
Research areas:
Year:
2015
Type of Publication:
Article
Journal:
Physical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Volume:
92
Number:
6
Pages:
1-11
ISSN:
1550-2376
DOI:
10.1103/PhysRevE.92.062810
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