Stigmergy is a class of mechanisms that mediate animal-animal interactions. Its introduction in 1959 by Pierre-Paul Grassé made it possible to explain what had been until then considered paradoxical observations: In an insect society individuals work as if they were alone while their collective activities appear to be coordinated. In this article we describe the history of stigmergy in the context of social insects and discuss the general properties of two distinct stigmergic mechanisms: quantitative stigmergy and qualitative stigmergy.

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