The choreography of learning walks in the Australian jack jumper ant Myrmecia croslandi

Piyankarie Jayatilaka, Trevor Murray, Ajay Narendra, Jochen Zeil*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


We provide a detailed analysis of the learning walks performed by Myrmecia croslandi ants at the nest during which they acquire visual information on its location. Most learning walks of 12 individually marked naïve ants took place in the morning with a narrow time window separating the first two learning walks, which most often occurred on the same day. Naïve ants performed between two and seven walks over up to four consecutive days before heading out to forage. On subsequent walks, naïve ants tend to explore the area around the nest in new compass directions. During learning walks, ants move along arcs around the nest while performing oscillating scanning movements. In a regular temporal sequence, the ants' gaze oscillates between the nest direction and the direction pointing away from the nest. Ants thus experience a sequence of views roughly across the nest and away from the nest from systematically spaced vantage points around the nest. Further, we show that ants leaving the nest for a foraging trip often walk in an arc around the nest on the opposite side to the intended foraging direction, performing a scanning routine indistinguishable from that of a learning walk. These partial learning walks are triggered by disturbance around the nest and may help returning ants with reorienting when overshooting the nest, which they frequently do. We discuss what is known about learning walks in different ant species and their adaptive significance for acquiring robust navigational memories.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb185306
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • learning walks
  • homing
  • visual navigation
  • ants
  • scene memories

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