Home > Papers from 2015 > How PI and visual guidance interact during food search in a channel.

How PI and visual guidance interact during food search in a channel.

In many studies of path integration, experimenters use channels to simplify the quantification of ant’s search patterns. In such studies Bolek and Wolf have previously shown how ants produce a food search after feeding at a large food source, or feeding repeatedly at the same location. One interesting aspect of their data is that the searches produced by ants are often biased in the nest-feeder direction. One hypothesis is that ant’s learn visual cues from the channel and that the biased search is a product of a conflict between PI and visual cues. Of course in channel situations the visual cues are homogenous across the whole route. This will produce a strong directional cue but the signal will be the same along the whole channel (even at fictive the feeder location) and will not be a good cue to predict the necessary stopping point at the fictive feeder. In this new paper Bolek and Wolf comprehensively test this idea with food searching ants in channels and also in a field situation where routes are guided by a corridor of landmarks. In both situations ants show the ‘stretched’ search. However, if ants’ ventral and lateral eyes are capped so that they can still path integrate but cannot extract terrestrial visual cues, then the searches become symmetrical and are centered on the location of the fictive feeder. Thus it seems likely that, even in channels and landmark corridors, ants are learning visual routes cues even if those cues are not useful for pinpointing a location and are not really needed for direction because of the physical constraints of the channel or corridor.

Siegfried Bolek, Harald Wolf (2015) Food searches and guiding structures in North African desert ants, Cataglyphis. Journal of Comparative Physiology A

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