Home > Papers from 2015 > Individual uncertainty and pheromone trails

Individual uncertainty and pheromone trails

For individual navigators it is well described how bouts of learning flights/walks are triggered by uncertainty. For instance a new feeder location or difficulty in relocating a feeder will both lead to an investment in learning. Similarly, after longer outbound foraging journeys the search distributions of ants are broader, reflecting the increased positional uncertainty of the individual. In this study we see an interesting interaction between individual uncertainty and social cues. Ants are allowed to become familiar with a feeder location on a T-maze, before the feeder is switched to the other arm of the maze. In response to the change ants upregulated pheromone deposition on homeward routes. Interestingly on subsequent outward routes pheromone laying was correlated with correct choice at the T-junction. Thus pheromone laying is related to an ant’s navigational uncertainty (or whether “she knows where she is going”).

The authors choose to engage in a semantic game in attempting to define this as metacognition. Of course this is their prerogative if they want to try and make this result seem more important.

Tomer J. Czaczkes, Jürgen Heinze (2015) Ants adjust their pheromone deposition to a changing environment and their probability of making errors. Proc Roy Soc B. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0679

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Categories: Papers from 2015
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