Flexible weighing of olfactory and vector information in the desert ant Cataglyphis fortis

Buehlmann, Cornelia, Hansson, Bill S and Knaden, Markus (2013) Flexible weighing of olfactory and vector information in the desert ant Cataglyphis fortis. Biology Letters, 9 (3). ISSN 1744-957X

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Abstract

Desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis, are equipped with remarkable skills that enable them to navigate efficiently. When travelling between the nest and a previously visited feeding site, they perform path integration (PI), but pinpoint the nest or feeder by following odour plumes. Homing ants respond to nest plumes only when the path integrator indicates that they are near home. This is crucial, as homing ants often pass through plumes emanating from foreign nests and do not discriminate between the plume of their own and that of a foreign nest, but should absolutely avoid entering a wrong nest. Their behaviour towards food odours differs greatly. Here, we show that in ants on the way to food, olfactory information outweighs PI information. Although PI guides ants back to a learned feeder, the ants respond to food odours independently of whether or not they are close to the learned feeding site. This ability is beneficial, as new food sources—unlike foreign nests—never pose a threat but enable ants to shorten distances travelled while foraging. While it has been shown that navigating C. fortis ants rely strongly on PI, we report here that the ants retained the necessary flexibility in the use of PI.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Research Centres and Groups: Insect Navigation Research Group
Depositing User: Cornelia Buehlmann
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2017 08:07
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2017 08:07
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/70520

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