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Desert ants use foraging distance to adapt the nest search to the uncertainty of the path integrator


Merkle, Tobias; Wehner, Rüdiger (2010). Desert ants use foraging distance to adapt the nest search to the uncertainty of the path integrator. Behavioral Ecology, 21(2):349-355.

Abstract

Path integration enables desert ants to return to their nest on a direct path. However, the mechanism of path integration is error prone and the ants often miss the exact position of the nest entrance in which case they engage in systematic search behavior. The pattern produced by this search behavior is very flexible and enables the ants to take the errors into account that have been accumulated during foraging and homing. Here, we assess which parameter the desert ant Cataglyphis fortis uses to adapt its systematic search behavior to the uncertainty of its path integrator when deprived of additional external cues. We compared groups of ants that had covered the same distance between their nest and a food source but differed in the overall length of their foraging excursions. Our results show that the width of the ants' search density profile depends on the distance the ants have ventured out from the nest, that is, the length of the home vector, but not on the tortuousness of their outbound path, that is, the number of steps made during foraging. This distance value is readily available through the path integrator and obviously sufficient to calibrate the ants' systematic search patterns

Abstract

Path integration enables desert ants to return to their nest on a direct path. However, the mechanism of path integration is error prone and the ants often miss the exact position of the nest entrance in which case they engage in systematic search behavior. The pattern produced by this search behavior is very flexible and enables the ants to take the errors into account that have been accumulated during foraging and homing. Here, we assess which parameter the desert ant Cataglyphis fortis uses to adapt its systematic search behavior to the uncertainty of its path integrator when deprived of additional external cues. We compared groups of ants that had covered the same distance between their nest and a food source but differed in the overall length of their foraging excursions. Our results show that the width of the ants' search density profile depends on the distance the ants have ventured out from the nest, that is, the length of the home vector, but not on the tortuousness of their outbound path, that is, the number of steps made during foraging. This distance value is readily available through the path integrator and obviously sufficient to calibrate the ants' systematic search patterns

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:National licences > 142-005
Dewey Decimal Classification:000 Computer science, knowledge & systems
570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Life Sciences > Animal Science and Zoology
Language:English
Date:1 January 2010
Deposited On:15 Nov 2018 14:43
Last Modified:15 Apr 2021 14:51
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1045-2249
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arp197

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