Vector calibration in Australian desert ants, Melophorus bagoti: effects of a delay after the acquisition of vector information

Vito A. G. Lionetti, Ken Cheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Desert ants navigate by using two chief strategies: path integration, keeping track of the straight-line distance and direction to the starting point as they travel, and landmark guidance, orientation based on the visual panorama. Both Cataglyphis ants in North Africa and Melophorus bagoti in Central Australia are known to adjust their vectors derived from path integration to compensate for mismatches between their outbound direction of travel and (the reverse of) the inbound direction of travel that takes them home, a process known as vector calibration. We created mismatches of 90° between the outbound vector and the homebound direction by displacing ants from a feeder before their homebound run. We examined temporal factors in vector calibration by varying the delay (0, 1 or 3 hr) between the outbound run to the feeder and the homebound run from the displacement site. According to the temporal weighting rule, such a delay should decrease the weight given to the vector information obtained from the outbound run. This in turn should favour reliance on the visual panorama and thus speed up calibration. Results did not support this prediction. At the displacement site, a delay had little effect on the extent of calibration or the speed of calibration (the number of trials to reach maximum calibration). Just before being displaced, ants were also tested in a test ring surrounded by high walls that obliterated the visual scenery. In the test ring, a delay made the ants less likely to rely on their vector: ants were often not oriented as a group. Otherwise, the ants in the test ring also did not calibrate any more or any faster.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)890-901
    Number of pages12
    Issue number12
    Early online date9 Sept 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


    • acquisition
    • learning
    • navigation
    • path integration
    • temporal weighting rule
    • visual panorama


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