Home > Papers from 2017 > Getting right back to it

Getting right back to it

One of the most prominent ideas in insect navigation is that visual navigation over long routes, or whilst searching for a discrete goal, can proceed via straightforward view-based mechanisms. That is, by aligning ones current view with stored views from previous excursions. So far, so simple, but what happens if individuals aren’t oriented in the direction of travel, as happens when ants are pulling an object backwards or when a flying insects is tracking sideways. Ardin et al. have showed previously that ants without path integration can orient accurately towards their nest when walking backwards. Here we learn about how ants manage this. Ants that have information from their Path Integration system are shown to be able to use this when moving backwards (as previosuly shown by Pfeffer and Wittlinger). However the interesting finding is that occasionally ants drop the food and loop around. If this looping results in the ants observing the familiar route in the normal direction (i.e. experience a familiar stored view) then they can return to the food and drag it in an accurate visually defined direction, albeit controlled by celestial compass information. This simple behavioural observation is thus very powerful in showing how visual guidance interacts with other directional control systems.

Schwarz, S., Mangan, M., Zeil, J., Webb, B., & Wystrach, A. (2017). How Ants Use Vision When Homing Backward. Current Biology.

Categories: Papers from 2017
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