Royal Society Publishing


We used a maze to explore the ability of Cataglyphis cursor to store multiple visual patterns presented in a fixed sequence. Ants were trained individually to negotiate a linear maze that consisted of four boxes connected by tunnels and through which an ant travelled from a sucrose feeder back to its nest. Each box had one entrance and two possible exits. One exit led to a blocked tunnel and the other to an open tunnel leading to the entrance of the next box. The open and closed exits in each box were labelled by different solid, black shapes that were specific to each box. Ants learnt to negotiate the maze using the shapes for guidance rather than a fixed motor strategy. Trained ants could not only discriminate positive from negative shapes, but had also learnt which positive shape belonged to which box. For example, when the positive shape appropriate to box 1 (1+) was pitted against that appropriate to box 3 (3+), ants preferred 1+ to 3+ in box 1, but chose 3+ over 1+ in box 3. We conclude that ants can identify individual positive shapes and expect to encounter them in the correct order independently of extra-maze cues.