Visual navigation in desert ants Cataglyphis fortis: are snapshots coupled to a celestial system of reference?

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Abstract

Central-place foraging insects such as desert ants of the genus Cataglyphis use both path integration and landmarks to navigate during foraging excursions. The use of landmark information and a celestial system of reference for nest location was investigated by training desert ants returning from an artificial feeder to find the nest at one of four alternative positions located asymmetrically inside a four-cylinder landmark array. The cylindrical landmarks were all of the same size and arranged in a square, with the nest located in the southeast corner. When released from the compass direction experienced during training (southeast), the ants searched most intensely at the fictive nest position. When instead released from any of the three alternative directions of approach (southwest, northwest or northeast), the same individuals instead searched at two of the four alternative positions by initiating their search at the position closest to the direction of approach when entering the landmark square and then returning to the position at which snapshot, current landmark image and celestial reference information were in register. The results show that, in the ants visual snapshot memory, a memorized landmark scene can temporarily be decoupled from a memorized celestial system of reference.

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  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1971-1978
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume205
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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