Living With a Panoramic View

Moebius Strip I I

Moebius Strip I I
MC Escher

Desert ants are fascinating organisms for studying navigation because they inhabit an environment with few local cues but impressive distant visual cues such as tall mountains. Navigating back to the nest after foraging can be challenging with few local cues. Can insects use their panoramic view of the skyline to navigate?

The answer is yes. Paul Graham1 and Ken Cheng created an artificial skyline and let ants learn the direction to and from their nest to a feeder. Ants followed the directions indicated by the artificial skyline whether it was oriented in the training direction or rotated 150 degrees. In other experiments, they observed navigation when parts of the panorama were eliminated. Blocking nearby visual objects such as tall trees had less effect on navigation than altering the skyline. It makes sense that ants would use the skyline to navigate because it is the most fixed feature of their environment. That does not mean that local cues cannot also be used.

*Paul Graham and Ken Cheng. 2009. Ants use the panoramic skyline as a visual cue during navigation. Current Biology Vol 19 No 20 R935-7.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, by jjneal, Vision. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Living With a Panoramic View

  1. Pingback: Living With a Panoramic View – Entomo Planet

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