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Integrating two-dimensional paths: do desert ants process distance information in the absence of celestial compass cues?


Ronacher, B; Westwig, E; Wehner, R (2006). Integrating two-dimensional paths: do desert ants process distance information in the absence of celestial compass cues? Journal of Experimental Biology, 209(17):3301-3308.

Abstract

When performing foraging trips desert ants of the genus Cataglyphis continuously process and update a ;home vector' that enables them to return to their nest on the shortest route. This capacity of path integration requires two types of information: (i) information about the travelling directions, and (ii) odometric information about the distances travelled in a particular direction. We have investigated how these two necessary pieces of information interact within the path integration processor. The specific question is: how do the ants process distance information if there is no simultaneous input from the sky compass available. Ants were trained to forage in a ;Z'-shaped channel system, the three segments of which joined at right angles. Individual animals were transferred from the feeder to a test field where their homing paths could be observed. In the crucial tests the middle segment of the maze was covered by orange Perspex that did not transmit the UV part of the spectrum, and thus precluded the perception of polarization patterns. Changes of the ant's processing of odometric information within this channel segment directly translate into a change in homing direction on the test field. The results indicate that the odometric information about travelling distance is largely ignored for path integration if there is no simultaneous input from the sky-view-based compass. They further show that idiothetic information cannot adequately substitute for the polarization compass to infer travelling directions.

Abstract

When performing foraging trips desert ants of the genus Cataglyphis continuously process and update a ;home vector' that enables them to return to their nest on the shortest route. This capacity of path integration requires two types of information: (i) information about the travelling directions, and (ii) odometric information about the distances travelled in a particular direction. We have investigated how these two necessary pieces of information interact within the path integration processor. The specific question is: how do the ants process distance information if there is no simultaneous input from the sky compass available. Ants were trained to forage in a ;Z'-shaped channel system, the three segments of which joined at right angles. Individual animals were transferred from the feeder to a test field where their homing paths could be observed. In the crucial tests the middle segment of the maze was covered by orange Perspex that did not transmit the UV part of the spectrum, and thus precluded the perception of polarization patterns. Changes of the ant's processing of odometric information within this channel segment directly translate into a change in homing direction on the test field. The results indicate that the odometric information about travelling distance is largely ignored for path integration if there is no simultaneous input from the sky-view-based compass. They further show that idiothetic information cannot adequately substitute for the polarization compass to infer travelling directions.

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11 citations in Web of Science®
13 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Zoology (former)
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:1 September 2006
Deposited On:11 Feb 2008 12:17
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:15
Publisher:Company of Biologists
ISSN:0022-0949
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.02370
PubMed ID:16916966

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