Running paths to nowhere: repetition of routes shows how navigating ants modulate online the weights accorded to cues

Wystrach, Antoine, Schwarz, Sebastian, Graham, Paul and Cheng, Ken (2019) Running paths to nowhere: repetition of routes shows how navigating ants modulate online the weights accorded to cues. Animal Cognition. ISSN 1435-9448

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Ants are expert navigators, keeping track of the vector to home as they travel, through path integration, and using terrestrial panoramas in view-based navigation. Although insect learning has been much studied, the learning processes in navigation have not received much attention. Here, we investigate in desert ants (Melophorus bagoti) the effects of repeating a well-travelled and familiar route segment without success. We find that re-running a homeward route without entering the nest impacted subsequent trips. Over trips, ants showed more meandering from side to side and more scanning behaviour, in which the ant stopped and turned, rotating to a range of directions. In repeatedly re-running their familiar route, ants eventually gave up heading in the nestward direction as defined by visual cues and turned to walk in the opposite direction. Further manipulations showed that the extent and rate of this path degradation depend on (1) the length of the vector accumulated in the direction opposite to the food-to-nest direction, (2) the specific visual experience of the repeated segment of the route that the ants were forced to re-run, and (3) the visual panorama: paths are more degraded in an open panorama, compared with a visually cluttered scene. The results show that ants dynamically modulate the weighting given to route memories, and that fits well with the recent models, suggesting that the mushroom bodies provide a substrate for the reinforcement learning of views for navigation.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Unmapped bibliographic data: JO - Animal Cognition [Field not mapped to EPrints]
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Q Science > QL Zoology > QL0750 Animal behaviour
Depositing User: Paul Graham
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2019 14:57
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2019 14:57

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Brains on Board: Neuromorphic Control of Flying RobotsG1980EPSRC-ENGINEERING & PHYSICAL SCIENCES RESEARCH COUNCILEP/P006094/1