Home > Papers from 2015 > Cue integration in ants

Cue integration in ants

For the control of behaviour, agents must take information from multiple sources and somehow merge them or decide between them in order to optimally control behaviour or develop accurate knowledge of the state of the environment.  Navigating insects provide a nice model for asking questions of this type as we can put learned visual information at odds with directions from path integration. Matthew Collett showed that both of these information sources can drive ant navigation at the same time. However, how they are averaged is unclear. Wystrach et al, used a nice experimental trick to help pick apart the weighting of these information sources. An insect’s path integration system has an increasing error with increasing length of the outward journey. That is to say, the region of the world within which the origin of the route might be increases in size. However, the error in the angular component of path integration decreases with distance away from the nest. So after a long journey, an ant far from the nest will have a more accurate departure bearing (compared to a short journey) even though the positional error in Path Integration is greater than for the small journey. Observing ants (with different length home vectors) when there is a conflict between visual information and PI, shows that ants’ resultant headings take into account the variability in the estimate of direction from the PI system. So far, so good, though an extra condition leads to an intriguing further result. The weighting of the PI component depends not on the total journey length (as would be optimal) but the current length of the home vector and therefore it seems that ants have an economical heuristic when deciding how to weight different cues.

Wystrach, A., Mangan, M., & Webb, B. (2015, October). Optimal cue integration in ants. In Proc. R. Soc. B (Vol. 282, No. 1816, p. 20151484). The Royal Society.
Categories: Papers from 2015
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