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When navigating wood ants use a shape's centre of mass to extract directional information from a panoramic skyline

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posted on 2023-06-09, 08:17 authored by Joseph L Woodgate, Cornelia BuehlmannCornelia Buehlmann, Thomas Collett
Bees and ants can control their direction of travel within a familiar landscape using the information available in the surrounding visual scene. To learn more about the visual cues that contribute to this directional control, we have examined how wood ants obtain direction from a single shape that is presented in an otherwise uniform panorama. Earlier experiments revealed that when an ant's goal is aligned with a point within a prominent shape, the ant is guided by a global property of the shape: it learns the relative areas of the shape that lie to its left and right when facing the goal and sets its path by keeping the proportions at the memorised value. This strategy cannot be applied when the direction of the goal lies outside the shape. To see whether a different global feature of the shape might guide ants under these conditions, we have trained ants to follow a direction to a point outside a single shape and then analysed their direction of travel when they are presented with different shapes. The tests indicate that ants learn the retinal position of the centre of mass of the training shape when facing the goal and can then guide themselves by placing the centre of mass of training and test shapes in this learnt position.


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  • Published

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Journal of Experimental Biology




The Company of Biologists Ltd



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  • Evolution, Behaviour and Environment Publications

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  • Insect Navigation Research Group Publications

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