Home > Papers from 2012 > The interaction of idiothetic and polarisation cues

The interaction of idiothetic and polarisation cues

In this paper Lebhardt et al look at what Cataglyphis will do when idiothetic cues conflict with polarisation cues. They do this by changing polarisation cues during straight path segments and keeping relative polarisation direction constant during dog-leg routes. The results indicate that ants seamlessly integrate information from the polarisation experienced along a route without any influence of potential idiothetic cues.

Their abstract: “Desert ants, Cataglyphis, use the sky’s pattern of polarized light as a compass reference for navigation. However, they do not fully exploit the complexity of this pattern, rather – as proposed previously – they assess their walking direction by means of an approximate solution based on a simplified internal template. Approximate rules are error-prone. We therefore asked whether the ants use additional cues to improve the accuracy of directional decisions, and focused on ‘idiothetic’ cues, i.e. cues based on information from proprioceptors. We trained ants in a channel system that was covered with a polarization filter, providing only a single e-vector direction as a directional ‘celestial’ cue. Then we observed their homebound runs on a test field, allowing full view of the sky. In crucial experiments, the ants were exposed to a cue conflict, in which sky compass and idiothetic information disagreed, by training them in a straight channel that provided a change in e-vector direction. The results indicated that the polarization information completely dominates over idiothetic cues. Two path segments with different e-vector orientations are combined linearly to a summed home vector. Our data provide additional evidence that Cataglyphis uses a simplified internal template to derive directional information from the sky’s polarization pattern.”

Fleur Lebhardt, Julja Koch, and Bernhard Ronacher (2012) The polarization compass dominates over idiothetic cues in path integration of desert ants. J Exp Biol 2012;215 526-535

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Categories: Papers from 2012
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