Homing strategies of the Australian desert ant Melophorus bagoti I. Proportional path-integration takes the ant half-way home

Ajay Narendra*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Highly evolved eusocial insects such as ants return from a food source to their nest by the shortest possible distance. This form of navigation, called path-integration, involves keeping track of the distance travelled and the angles steered on the outbound journey, which then aids in the computation of the shortest return distance. In featureless terrain, ants rely on the path integrator to travel the entire distance to return to the nest, whereas in landmark-rich habitats ants are guided by visual cues and in the absence of the visual cues homing ants rely on the path integrator to travel only an initial 10-60 cm of the homebound distance. The functioning of the path integrator in a habitat of intermediate landmark density is unknown. The findings reported here show that when the outward journey is on a familiar foraging area, and the inward journey is on an unfamiliar area, the Australian route-following desert ant Melophorus bagoti relies on the path integrator and consistently travels half the distance of the outward trip. However, when both the outward and inward trips are performed in plain and featureless channels, which blocks the distinct terrestrial visual cues, ants travel the entire distance accurately. A similar half-way abbreviation of the home vector occurs when the ant's outward trip is in an L-shaped channel and the homeward trip is over an open and unfamiliar region. The ecological significance of these new findings is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1798-1803
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume210
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2007

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