How does terrain-type relate to preference for different navigational strategies?
We know that individual foragers of most species have access to multiple navigational strategies. Principally, path integration and use of learnt visual information. One of the most important current questions in insect navigation concerns the interactions between these strategies and assuming that the balance of strategy-use is adaptive – it is interesting to investigate how different species balance different sources of navigational information. Bühlmann et al present a really nice study where they investigate two species with the same experiments. The North African Cataglyphis fortis and the central Australian Melophorus bagoti, which differ markedly in the visual complexity of their natural habitats: featureless salt pans and cluttered, steppe-like terrain, respectively. The experiments suggest that C. fortis more readily rely on vector-mediated navigation, whereas M. bagoti more easily switches to landmark-guided behaviour.
Cornelia Bühlmann, Ken Cheng and Rüdiger Wehner (2011) Vector-based and landmark-guided navigation in desert ants inhabiting landmark-free and landmark-rich environments. J Exp Biol 214: 2845- 2853.