Ants show a leftward turning bias when exploring unknown nest sites

Edmund R Hunt, Thomas A O'Shea-Wheller, Gregory F Albery, Tamsyn H Bridger, Mike Gumn, Nigel R Franks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
253 Downloads (Pure)


Behavioural lateralization in invertebrates is an important field of study because it may provide insights into the early origins of lateralization seen in a diversity of organisms. Here,we present evidence for a leftward turning bias in Temnothorax albipennis ants exploring nest cavities and in branching mazes, where the bias is initially obscured by thigmotaxis (wall-following) behaviour. Forward travel with a consistent turning bias in either direction is an effective nest exploration method, and a simple decision-making heuristic to employ when faced with multiple directional choices. Replication of the same bias at the colony level would also reduce individual predation risk through aggregation effects, and may lead to a faster attainment of a quorum threshold for nest migration. We suggest the turning bias may be the result of an evolutionary interplay between vision, exploration and migration factors, promoted by the ants’ eusociality.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20140945
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2014


  • Temnothorax albipennis
  • lateralization
  • turning bias
  • thigmotaxis
  • exploration
  • mazes

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