Home > Papers from 2013 > Away from the beaten track.

Away from the beaten track.

We have excellent descriptions of the navigational behaviors of solitary foragers, such as desert ants. We also have good descriptions of the collective properties of foraging within networks of pheromone-trails. An emerging area of research lies at the intersection of these topics, where we can ask questions about how individuals integrate their personal navigational knowledge with that provided by trails. In this paper, Offord et al. investigate the homing of harvester ants. These ants are interesting because foragers follow a trail for a time before a period of off-trail solitary foraging. Ants from on- the trail, and off-the trail were taken to a novel (clean) release site and their paths recorded. Interestingly, only the off-trail ants showed purposeful departure bearings and they headed in a direction that would have taken them back to trail from the location where they were captured. The absence of useful visual information indicates that these bearings are driven by compass information. One has to then ask why the on-trail ants didn’t show bearings that were nest focused. One possibility is that ants only “switch-on” their path integrator when they leave the trail network, thus its origin is the trail rather than the nest. Certainly, this system is likely to prove an interesting way to investigate interaction between individual and social information.

Offord, C., Reda, K., & Mateevitsi, V. (2013) Context-dependent navigation in a collectively foraging species of ant, Messor cephalotes. Insectes Sociaux.

Categories: Papers from 2013
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