The Desert Ant’s Navigational Toolkit: Procedural Rather than Positional Knowledge

Rudiger Wehner

Peer Reviewed

Abstract: Desert ants, Cataglyphis in North Africa and Melophorus in Central Australia, exhibit amazing feats of navigation. This essay focuses on the architecture of the insect’s navigational toolkit. First, path integration (PI) is the ant’s major means of navigation, at least in so far as it is running all the time while the animal is on its foraging journey, irrespective of whether landmark-based systems of navigation (LN) are expressed as well. Its two components, compass and odometer, are discussed. Second, while foraging within cluttered environments, desert ants can learn a number of different routes, discriminate between inbound and outbound routes, and follow these routes independently of the state of their path integrator (PI). Third, desert ants use the information provided by their PI and LN systems in a strictly cue-dependent procedural way rather than by acquiring and using a cartographical representation, or survey map, of their foraging terrain.
Published in: NAVIGATION: Journal of the Institute of Navigation, Volume 55, Number 2
Pages: 101 - 114
Cite this article: Wehner, Rudiger, "The Desert Ant’s Navigational Toolkit: Procedural Rather than Positional Knowledge", NAVIGATION: Journal of The Institute of Navigation, Vol. 55, No. 2, Summer 2008, pp. 101-114.
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