Acquisition and expression of memories of distance and direction in navigating wood ants

Fernandes, A Sofia D, Philippides, Andrew, Collett, Tom S and Niven, Jeremy E (2015) Acquisition and expression of memories of distance and direction in navigating wood ants. Journal of Experimental Biology, 218 (22). pp. 3580-3588. ISSN 0022-0949

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Wood ants, like other central place foragers, rely on route memories to guide them to and from a reliable food source. They use visual memories of the surrounding scene and probably compass information to control their direction. Do they also remember the length of their route and do they link memories of direction and distance? To answer these questions, we trained wood ant (Formica rufa) foragers in a channel to perform either a single short foraging route or two foraging routes in opposite directions. By shifting the starting position of the route within the channel, but keeping the direction and distance fixed, we tried to ensure that the ants could rely upon vector memories rather than visual memories to decide when to stop. The homeward memories that the ants formed were revealed by placing fed or unfed ants directly into a channel and assessing the direction and distance that they walked without prior performance of the food-ward leg of the journey. This procedure prevented the distance and direction walked being affected by a home vector derived from path integration. Ants that were unfed walked in the feeder direction. Fed ants walked in the opposite direction for a distance related to the separation between start and feeder. Vector memories of a return route can thus be primed by the ants’ feeding state and expressed even when the ants have not performed the food-ward route. Tests on ants that have acquired two routes indicate that memories of the direction and distance of the return routes are
linked, suggesting that they may be encoded by a common neural population within the ant brain.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Visual navigation, Vision, Path integration, Odometry, Formica rufa
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
School of Life Sciences > Neuroscience
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics
Depositing User: Andy Philippides
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2017 16:05
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2017 16:05

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