Visual cue learning and odometry in guiding the search behavior of desert ants, Melophorus bagoti, in artificial channels

Sebastian Schwarz*, Patrick Schultheiss, Ken Cheng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Terrestrial panoramic cues, path integration and search behavior are the main navigational strategies used by ants to locate food and find their way back to the nest. Searching becomes important when the other navigational cues are either not available or cannot provide sufficient information to pinpoint the goal. When searching in one-dimensional channels Melophorus bagoti ants exhibit a systematic drift in the starting-point-to-goal direction as they turn back and forth, sometimes past the goal location (Narendra et al., 2008). Here we show that this drift in channels is not a stereotypical part of the search behavior in these ants. It rather depends on the conditions of training. In experiments in which the nest entrance is located not at the end but at the side of the channel, forward drift is not always part of the nest search. Experiments on food searches showed that with the food source at the end of the channel, ants performed a linear drift in the starting-point-to-food direction. With food at the side of the channel, they showed a less pronounced drift toward the food source. In this constrained environment, especially with the goal at the end of the channel, ants seem to learn a routine such as 'run along the channel', and mix this routine with their usual strategy of turning back and forth in search.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-303
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioural Processes
Volume91
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

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