Just as light does, ants traveling through different materials follow the fastest path, not the shortest one, LiveScience reports. A recent study found that when fire ants (Wasmannia auropunctata) crossed different surfaces, the insects chose the route that would minimize their total walking time, rather than the distance traveled. The ants’ behavior offers a window into how groups of social insects self-organize, the scientists say. In optics, a ray of light traveling between two points takes the path that requires the least amount of time, even if it’s not the shortest distance — which is known as “Fermat’s principle of least time.”

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