Path integration controls nest-plume following in desert ants

Buehlmann, Cornelia, Hansson, Bill S and Knaden, Markus (2012) Path integration controls nest-plume following in desert ants. Current Biology, 22 (7). pp. 645-649. ISSN 0960-9822

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Abstract

The desert ant Cataglyphis fortis is equipped with sophisticated navigational skills for returning to its nest after foraging [1, 2]. The ant's primary means for long-distance navigation is path integration, which provides a continuous readout of the ant's approximate distance [3] and direction [4] from the nest [5]. The nest is pinpointed with the aid of visual [6–8] and olfactory landmarks [9–11]. Similar landmark cues help ants locate familiar food sites. Ants on their outward trip will position themselves so that they can move upwind using odor cues to find food [12]. Here we show that homing ants also move upwind along nest-derived odor plumes to approach their nest. The ants only respond to odor plumes if the state of their path integrator tells them that they are near the nest. This influence of path integration is important because we could experimentally provoke ants to follow odor plumes from a foreign, conspecific nest and enter that nest. We identified CO2 as one nest-plume component that can by itself induce plume following in homing ants. Taken together, the results suggest that path-integration information enables ants to avoid entering the wrong nest, where they would inevitably be killed by resident ants.

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 08:11
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2017 08:11
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/70521
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