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The learning and maintenance of local vectors in desert ant navigation

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 23:04 authored by Matthew Collett, Thomas S Collett
The desert ant Cataglyphis fortis has at least three types of navigational strategy that can guide it between its nest and a familiar food site. The initial strategy after first finding a food site is based on a path integration memory of the position of the food site with respect to the nest. A second strategy is based on visual snapshot memories of features viewed from near or on the way to the food site. A third strategy uses local vector memories of the direction and length of habitual route segments. We show here that while such local vectors encode sufficient information to guide an individual along both the direction and distance of a route segment, its acquisition and long-term maintenance requires support from the other two strategies. We trained ants along an L-shaped route, designed to show that ants can learn local vectors on the way to a food site. The sharp turn appears to present particular difficulties for the ants. When low bushes 20-30 m from the route were removed, local vectors were briefly unaffected, but then deteriorated. The vectors improved again once the missing bushes were replaced by artificial landmarks. The fragility of local vector memories may permit an ant the flexibility to adapt its route to fluctuations in the distribution of its resources.


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  • Published


Journal of Experimental Biology





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  • Evolution, Behaviour and Environment Publications

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  • Yes

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