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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Homing abilities of the Australian intertidal ant Polyrhachis sokolova

Narendra, Ajay; Raderschall, Chloe A.; Robson, Simon K. A.


The pressure of returning to and locating the nest after a successful foraging trip is immense in ants. To find their way back home, ants use a number of different strategies (e. g. path integration, trail following) and rely on a range of cues (e. g. pattern of polarised skylight, landmark panorama) available in their environment. How ants weigh different cues has been a question of great interest and has primarily been addressed in the desert ants from Africa and Australia. We here identify the navigational abilities of an intertidal ant, Polyrhachis sokolova, that lives on mudflats where nests and foraging areas are frequently inundated with tidal water. We find that these solitary foraging ants rely heavily on visual landmark information for navigation, but they are also capable of path integration. By displacing ants with and without vector information at different locations within the local familiar territory, we created conflicts between information from the landmarks and information from the path integrator. The homing success of full-vector ants, compared with the zero-vector ants, when displaced 5 m behind the feeder, indicate that vector information had to be coupled with landmark information for successful homing. To explain the differences in the homing abilities of ants from different locations we determined the navigational information content at each release station and compared it with that available at the feeder location. We report here the interaction of multiple navigation strategies in the context of the information content in the environment.


navigation; path integration; landmark panorama; cue competition

Published in

Journal of Experimental Biology
2013, Volume: 216, number: 19, pages: 3674-3681

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