Role of the pheromone for navigation in the group foraging ant, Veromessor pergandei

Cody A. Freas*, Marcia L. Spetch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Navigation is comprised of a variety of strategies which rely on multiple external cues to shape a navigator’s behavioral output. Here, we explored in the ant Veromessor pergandei, the interactions between the information provided by the pheromone trail and the home vector guided by the celestial compass. We found that a cross sensory interaction between the pheromone cue and the path integrator underlies correct orientation during the inbound journey. The celestial compass provides directional information, while the presence of the trail pheromone acts as a critical context cue, triggering distinct behaviors (vector orientation, search, and backtracking). While exposed to the pheromone, foragers orient to the vector direction regardless of vector state, while in the pheromone’s absence, the current remaining vector determines the forager’s navigational behavior. This interaction also occurs in foragers with no remaining path integrator, relying on the activation of a celestial compass-based memory of the previous trip. Such cue interactions maximize the foragers’ return to the nest and inhibit movement off the pheromone trail. Finally, our manipulations continuously rotated foragers away from their desired heading, yet foragers were proficient at counteracting these changes, steering to maintain a correct compass heading even at rotational speeds of ~ 40°/s.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353–367
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
Issue number3
Early online date7 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Celestial compass
  • Context cues
  • Path integration
  • Multisensory
  • Cue integration


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