Landmarks and ant search strategies after interrupted tandem runs

Norasmah Basari, Aisha C Bruendl, Charlotte E Hemingway, Nicholas W Roberts, Ana B Sendova-Franks, Nigel R Franks

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

19 Citations (Scopus)


During a tandem run, a single leading ant recruits a single follower to an important resource such as a new nest. Here, for the first time, we used a motorized gantry to track tandem running ants accurately in a large arena and we compared their performance in the presence of different types of landmark. We interrupted tandem runs by taking away the leader and moved a large distant landmark behind the new nest just at the time of this separation. Our aim was to determine what information followers may have obtained from the incomplete tandem run they had followed and how they behave after the tandem run had been interrupted. Our results show that former followers search by using composite random strategies with elements of sub-diffusive and diffusive movements. Furthermore, when we provided more landmarks former followers searched for longer. However, when all landmarks were removed completely from the arena, the ants' search duration lasted up to four times longer. Hence, their search strategy changes in the presence or absence of landmarks. Even after extensive search of this kind, former followers headed back to their old nest but did not return along the path of the tandem run they had followed. The combination of the position to which the large distant landmark behind the new nest was moved and the presence or absence of additional landmarks influenced the orientation of the former followers' paths back to the old nest. We also found that these ants exhibit behavioural lateralization in which they may use their right eye more than their left eye to recognize landmarks for navigation. Our results suggest that former follower ants learn landmarks during tandem running and use this information to make strategic decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)944-954
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number6
Early online date6 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2014

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