Acquiring, retaining and integrating memories of the outbound distance in the Australian desert ant Melophorus bagoti

Ajay Narendra*, Ken Cheng, Rüdiger Wehner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Estimation of distance travelled (odometry) forms a vital part of navigation for solitarily foraging ants. In this study we investigated the properties of odometric memory in the Australian desert ant Melophorus bagoti. Ants were trained to travel in linear channels to a feeder placed at 6 m or 12 m from the nest. We determined if the ability to estimate distances accurately increased with experience. We also determined the delay at which the odometric memory started to decay at both these distances. Ants with six trials of experience did not get better at estimating distances and the odometric memory decayed after a 24 h delay. We then determined if ants integrated their latest odometric memory with their previous memories. We did this by training two groups of ants for five trials, one group to 6 m and another to 12 m, and then halving or doubling the outbound distance on their sixth trip, respectively. The ant's estimate was noted when the ants were released either immediately or after a 24 h delay. Ants always estimated their last outbound distance when released immediately. However, they switched to route-based navigation rather than estimating distances after a 24 h delay (at which time their odometric memory would have decayed).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-577
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume210
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007

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