Royal Society Publishing

Path integration in desert ants, Cataglyphis: how to make a homing ant run away from home

David Andel, Rüdiger Wehner

Abstract

Path integration is an an's lifeline on any of its foraging journeys. It results in a homebound global vector that continually informs the animal about its position relative to its starting point. Here, we use a particular (repeated training and displacement) paradigm, in which homebound ants are made to follow a familiar landmark route repeatedly from the feeder to the nest, even after they have arrived at the nest. The results show that during the repeated landmark–guided home runs the an's path integrator runs continually, so that the current state of the homebound vector increasingly exceeds the reference state. The dramatic result is that the homing ants run away from home. This finding implies that the ants do not rely on cartographic information about the locations of nest and feeder (e.g. that the nest is always south of the feeder), but just behave according to what the state of their egocentric path integrator tells them.

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