Myrmecologists (biologists who study ants) have devoted much effort to understanding ant orientation behavior. Ant orientation studies are useful in building models that can inform the engineering of orientation by artificial intelligence. Over 10,000 species of ants offer a variety of orientation models. Comparisons can be made among the orientation behaviors of several species and generate multiple orientation models.
One experimental technique is to capture a foraging ant on its return to the nest and observe its behavior. Path integration is the dominant response in desert ants that live in a bleak landscape with little clutter. The desert ants count steps and turns on their trip from the nest. They repeat the pattern in reverse on their return. Displaced desert ants will repeat most of the memorized path integration sequence before breaking off and conducting a local search. Ants that live in cluttered environments, such as rainforests may only repeat a small fraction of the path integration sequence before breaking off to perform a random search. Thus path integration appears less important in the visual clutter of the rainforest than bleak monotony of the desert. The study of different ant species can be used to produce multiple models of orientation that can be compared and evaluated for application in different settings.