Compass cues used by a nocturnal bull ant, Myrmecia midas

Cody A. Freas*, Ajay Narendra, Ken Cheng

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    26 Citations (Scopus)


    Ants use both terrestrial landmarks and celestial cues to navigate to and from their nest location. These cues persist even as light levels drop during the twilight/night. Here, we determined the compass cues used by a nocturnal bull ant, Myrmecia midas, in which the majority of individuals begin foraging during the evening twilight period. Myrmecia midas foragers with vectors of ≤5 m when displaced to unfamiliar locations did not follow the home vector, but instead showed random heading directions. Foragers with larger home vectors (≥10 m) oriented towards the fictive nest, indicating a possible increase in cue strength with vector length. When the ants were displaced locally to create a conflict between the home direction indicated by the path integrator and terrestrial landmarks, foragers oriented using landmark information exclusively and ignored any accumulated home vector regardless of vector length. When the visual landmarks at the local displacement site were blocked, foragers were unable to orient to the nest direction and their heading directions were randomly distributed. Myrmecia midas ants typically nest at the base of the tree and some individuals forage on the same tree. Foragers collected on the nest tree during evening twilight were unable to orient towards the nest after small lateral displacements away from the nest. This suggests the possibility of high tree fidelity and an inability to extrapolate landmark compass cues from information collected on the tree and at the nest site to close displacement sites.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1578-1585
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - May 2017


    • Ants
    • Orientation
    • Landmarks
    • Path integration
    • Nocturnal navigation


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