Individual foraging ants are known to rely on views of their surroundings for route learning and for pinpointing goals. Different strategies have been proposed to explain how ants might process visual information for navigation, but little is known about the actual development and nature of the view-based strategies used by ants in complex natural environments. Here, we constrained the knowledge of Melophorus bagoti ants to either the nest vicinity or a curved route (length 10 m) and analysed their initial direction when released at both novel and familiar locations. In parallel, we used 360 deg pictures of the scene as a basis for modelling different navigational strategies. We propose here a new hypothesis based on skyline height comparison to explain how ants home from novel locations. Interestingly, this strategy succeeded well at novel locations but failed on familiar terrain. By contrast, the use of a visual compass strategy failed at novel locations but could explain the results on familiar routes. We suggest that ants might switch between skyline height comparison and a visual compass strategy, depending on whether they are on familiar terrain or not. How ants could switch between strategies and how their memories develop are discussed in turn.
- Homing Behavior
- Models, Biological