An ant mill is an observed phenomenon in which a group of army ants are separated from the main foraging party, lose the pheromone track and begin to follow one another, forming a continuously rotating circle, commonly known as a "death spiral" because the ants might eventually die of exhaustion. It has been reproduced in laboratories and has been produced in ant colony simulations.
The phenomenon is a side effect of the self-organizing structure of ant colonies. Each ant follows the ant in front of it, which works until a slight deviation begins to occur, typically by an environmental trigger, and an ant mill forms. An ant mill was first described in 1921 by William Beebe, who observed a mill 1200 ft (~370 m) in circumference. It took each ant two and a half hours to make one revolution. Similar phenomena have been noted in processionary caterpillars and fish.
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