On the encoding of panoramic visual scenes in navigating wood ants

Buehlmann, Cornelia, Woodgate, Joseph L and Collett, Thomas (2016) On the encoding of panoramic visual scenes in navigating wood ants. Current Biology, 26 (15). pp. 2022-2027. ISSN 0960-9822

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A natural visual panorama is a complex stimulus formed of many component shapes. It gives an animal a sense of place and supplies guiding signals for controlling the animal’s direction of travel [1]. Insects with their economical neural processing [2] are good subjects for analyzing the encoding and memory of such scenes [3, 4, 5]. Honeybees [6] and ants [7, 8] foraging from their nest can follow habitual routes guided only by visual cues within a natural panorama. Here, we analyze the headings that ants adopt when a familiar panorama composed of two or three shapes is manipulated by removing a shape or by replacing training shapes with unfamiliar ones. We show that (1) ants recognize a component shape not only through its particular visual features, but also by its spatial relation to other shapes in the scene, and that (2) each segmented shape [9] contributes its own directional signal to generating the ant’s chosen heading. We found earlier that ants trained to a feeder placed to one side of a single shape [10] and tested with shapes of different widths learn the retinal position of the training shape’s center of mass (CoM) [11, 12] when heading toward the feeder. They then guide themselves by placing the shape’s CoM in the remembered retinal position [10]. This use of CoM in a one-shape panorama combined with the results here suggests that the ants’ memory of a multi-shape panorama comprises the retinal positions of the horizontal CoMs of each major component shape within the scene, bolstered by local descriptors of that shape.

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: 13 Oct 2017 12:57
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 12:57
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/70517
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