Desert ants (Melophorus bagoti) navigating with robustness to distortions of the natural panorama

S. Schwarz, E. Julle-Daniere, L. Morin, P. Schultheiss, A. Wystrach, J. Ives, K. Cheng

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Many insects are known to use the terrestrial visual panorama for navigation. Research suggests that large-scale panoramic properties are often used for orientation rather than individual objects, usually called landmarks. We degraded the natural panorama encountered by Australian red honey ants, Melophorus bagoti, to test how robust their orientation based on the terrestrial panorama is. Foraging ants were lured to a feeder at a constant location. Trained ants were allowed to run home individually with food, but were captured just before they entered their nest. The tested ant was brought back to the location of the feeder, now covered, and allowed to run home again under different distortions of the natural panorama. In one experiment, a large tract of the view on one side of the feeder was obstructed by a tall plastic sheet. In a second experiment, the visual heights of terrestrial objects were altered by raising or lowering the ant by 80 cm. Under both kinds of distortions, the ants continued to be well oriented in the homeward direction. Navigation based on the natural terrestrial panorama proved robust to large distortions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-383
JournalInsectes Sociaux
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Desert ants
  • View-based navigation
  • Panorama
  • Skyline


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