Natural landmarks and route learning
Foragers of the Australian desert ant Melophorus bagoti are well known to develop individual stereotypical routes through their naturally cluttered environment. Wystrach et al. investigated the mechanisms of route following by designing artificial and manipulable obstacle courses made out of natural objects such as logs, branches and tussocks.
Antoine Wystrach comments:
“The experiment reveals that more ants developed a stereotypical route when the route-objects were bigger and the gaps chosen between obstacles seemed to result from the direction dictated by the path integrator. By inter-changing the objects’ position, we showed that the ants could memorise and ‘recognise’ the familiar landmarks along their route, although removing them did not prevent the ants homing efficiently. Further manipulations also revealed a strong link between the use of route-landmarks and the rest of the visual panorama. We think this link may be the result of the use of panoramic views, encompassing both route-landmarks and distal panorama.”
Wystrach, A., Schwarz, S., Schultheiss, P., Beugnon, G. and Cheng, K. (2010). Views,landmarks, and routes: how do desert ants negotiate an obstacle course? J. Comp.Physiol. A