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.
- Dim light
- Head stabilisation