Impact of central complex lesions on innate and learnt visual navigation in ants

Cornelia Buehlmann, Scarlett Dell-Cronin, Angela Diyalagoda Pathirannahelage, Roman Goulard, Barbara Webb, Jeremy E. Niven, Paul Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Wood ants are excellent navigators, using a combination of innate and learnt navigational strategies to travel between their nest and feeding sites. Visual navigation in ants has been studied extensively, however, we have little direct evidence for the underlying neural mechanisms. Here, we perform lateralized mechanical lesions in the central complex (CX) of wood ants, a midline structure known to allow an insect to keep track of the direction of sensory cues relative to its own orientation and to control movement. We lesioned two groups of ants and observed their behaviour in an arena with a large visual landmark present. The first group of ants were naïve and when intact such ants show a clear innate attraction to the conspicuous landmark. The second group of ants were trained to aim to a food location to the side of the landmark. The general heading of naïve ants towards a visual cue was not altered by the lesions, but the heading of ants trained to a landmark adjacent food position was affected. Thus, CX lesions had a specific impact on learnt visual guidance. We also observed that lateralised lesions altered the fine details of turning with lesioned ants spending less time turning to the side ipsilateral of the lesion. The results confirm the role of the CX in turn control and highlight its important role in the implementation of learnt behaviours that rely on information from other brain regions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)737-746
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number4
Early online date15 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Central complex
  • Innate visual behaviour
  • Visual navigation
  • Wood ants
  • Formica rufa


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