Combining sky and earth

desert ants (Melophorus bagoti) show weighted integration of celestial and terrestrial cues

Eric L G Legge*, Antoine Wystrach, Marcia L. Spetch, Ken Cheng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

55 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Insects typically use celestial sources of directional information for path integration, and terrestrial panoramic information for view-based navigation. Here we set celestial and terrestrial sources of directional information in conflict for homing desert ants (Melophorus bagoti). In the first experiment, ants learned to navigate out of a round experimental arena with a distinctive artificial panorama. On crucial tests, we rotated the arena to create a conflict between the artificial panorama and celestial information. In a second experiment, ants at a feeder in their natural visually-cluttered habitat were displaced prior to their homing journey so that the dictates of path integration (feeder to nest direction) based on a celestial compass conflicted with the dictates of view-based navigation (release point to nest direction) based on the natural terrestrial panorama. In both experiments, ants generally headed in a direction intermediate to the dictates of celestial and terrestrial information. In the second experiment, the ants put more weight on the terrestrial cues when they provided better directional information. We conclude that desert ants weight and integrate the dictates of celestial and terrestrial information in determining their initial heading, even when the two directional cues are highly discrepant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4159-4166
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume217
Issue number23
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014

Keywords

  • Desert ant
  • Direction
  • Information
  • Integration
  • Navigation
  • Orientation

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