Head roll stabilisation in the nocturnal bull ant Myrmecia pyriformis

Implications for visual navigation

Chloé A. Raderschall, Ajay Narendra, Jochen Zeil*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)


Ant foragers are known to memorise visual scenes that allow them to repeatedly travel along idiosyncratic routes and to return to specific places. Guidance is provided by a comparison between visual memories and current views, which critically depends on how well the attitude of the visual system is controlled. Here we show that nocturnal bull ants stabilise their head to varying degrees against locomotion-induced body roll movements, and this ability decreases as light levels fall. There are always un-compensated head roll oscillations that match the frequency of the stride cycle. Head roll stabilisation involves both visual and non-visual cues as ants compensate for body roll in complete darkness and also respond with head roll movements when confronted with visual pattern oscillations. We show that imperfect head roll control degrades navigation-relevant visual information and discuss ways in which navigating ants may deal with this problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1449-1457
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2016


  • Ants
  • Dim light
  • Head stabilisation
  • Image-matching
  • Navigation
  • Vision

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