Moving in dim light: behavioural and visual adaptations in nocturnal ants

Ajay Narendra, J. Frances Kamhi, Yuri Kato

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)


    Visual navigation is a benchmark information processing task that can be used to identify the consequence of being active in dim-light environments. Visual navigational information that animals use during the day includes celestial cues such as the sun or the pattern of polarized skylight and terrestrial cues such as the entire panorama, canopy pattern, or significant salient features in the landscape. At night, some of these navigational cues are either unavailable or are significantly dimmer or less conspicuous than during the day. Even under these circumstances, animals navigate between locations of importance. Ants are a tractable system for studying navigation during day and night because the fine scale movement of individual animals can be recorded in high spatial and temporal detail. Ant species range from being strictly diurnal, crepuscular, and nocturnal. In addition, a number of species have the ability to change from a day- to a night-active lifestyle owing to environmental demands. Ants also offer an opportunity to identify the evolution of sensory structures for discrete temporal niches not only between species but also within a single species. Their unique caste system with an exclusive pedestrian mode of locomotion in workers and an exclusive life on the wing in males allows us to disentangle sensory adaptations that cater for different lifestyles. In this article, we review the visual navigational abilities of nocturnal ants and identify the optical and physiological adaptations they have evolved for being efficient visual navigators in dim-light.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1104–1116
    Number of pages13
    JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
    EventAnnual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology - New Orleans, United States
    Duration: 4 Jan 20178 Jan 2017


    • eye - Accommodation & refraction
    • ant behavior
    • insect adaptation
    • nocturnal animal behavior
    • neuroplasticity


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