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Food searches and guiding structures in North African desert ants, Cataglyphis
- Bolek, Siegfried, Wolf, Harald
- Journal of comparative physiology 2015 v.201 no.6 pp. 631-644
- Cataglyphis, animals, eyes, field experimentation, food guides, foraging
- North African desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis, use path integration as their primary means of navigation. The ants also use landmarks when these are available to improve navigation accuracy. Extended landmarks, such as walls and channels, may serve further functions, for example, local guidance or triggering of local vectors. The roles of such structures were usually examined in homing animals but not during food searches. When searching for familiar feeding sites, Cataglyphis may show intriguing deviations from expected search performances. These may result from the presence of extended landmarks, namely experimental channels. Here we scrutinise this hypothesis of landmark guidance in food searches. We prevented the ants from seeing the channel walls by covering their eyes, except the dorsal rim area. This experiment was repeated in the open test field with an alley of black cylinders to extend our findings to a more normal foraging environment. Ants with covered eyes did not deviate from expected search performances, whereas ants with normal eyes extended their searches along the axis of the leading structures by 15–20 %, in both channels and landmark alleys. This demonstrates that Cataglyphis orients along extended landmarks when searching for familiar food sources and alters its search pattern accordingly.