Ants' navigation in an unfamiliar environment is influenced by their experience of a familiar route

Sebastian Schwarz, Antoine Wystrach, Ken Cheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

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10 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


When displaced experimentally from a food source (feeder) to unfamiliar terrain, ants run off a portion of the homeward vector or its entirety, depending on species and conditions, and then search systematically, turning in loops of ever increasing size. The Australian desert ant Melophorus bagoti runs off a smaller portion of its vector if the test site is more dissimilar to its nest area. Here we manipulated familiarity with the training route between a feeder and the ants' nest to examine its effects when the ants were displaced to a distant site from the feeder. Naïve ants that arrived at an experimentally provided feeder for the first time were compared with experienced ants that had travelled the route for two days. At the unfamiliar test site, naïve ants ran off a longer portion of their vector from path integration than did experienced ants. Naïve ants also spread out in their systematic search slower than did experienced ants. We conclude that as ants learn the views encountered on their familiar route better, they identify more readily unfamiliar views. A scene distant from their nest area may not look as unfamiliar to a naïve ant as it does to an experienced ant.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14161
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2017

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