Monday, 26 September 2016

Ants have dual navigation systems




Date: September 8, 2016
Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science

Ants visually track the motion of objects as they move through their environment in order to determine the distance they have traveled, a new study reports. Such tracking, called optic flow, has been observed in a number of insects but was thought to be used only minimally by ants.

Now, results by Sarah Elisabeth Pfeffer and Matthias Wittlinger suggest that certain ants can rely solely on optic flow to find their way back to their nest when lost. Here, they studied Cataglyphis bicolor desert ants, which exhibit unique behaviors; namely, experienced forager ants carry interior nest workers, who are much less familiar with the outdoor environment, between different nest sites.

Previously, studies revealed that Cataglyphis bicolor ants are able to calculate the distance they've traveled based on the number of steps they have taken, essentially relying on internal odometer mechanisms. To explore how these ants -- particularly those that are carried, and don't take steps -- may also use optical cues, the researchers connected two entrances of neighboring nests with a walking channel.

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