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Energy-efficient uneven clustering (EEUC) algorithm is a novel algorithm which can balance energy cost among cluster headers and extend network's general survival time effectively. However, EEUC needs to do cluster header election every round, and fails to take network's reliability and real-time issues into account. This paper presents a novel uneven cluster-based routing protocol for wireless sensor networks: ant colony optimization based uneven clustering (ACOUC) algorithm. ACOUC changes EEUC's periodical and random election model, optimizes and maintains network's routing on employ of an ant colony algorithm based on its characteristics of self-organization, self-adaptation and dynamic optimization. Simulation results on OPNET show that ACOUC is better than EEUC in energy efficiency, reliability and real-time performance.