Landmark memories are more robust when acquired at the nest site than en route: experiments in desert ants

Naturwissenschaften. 2003 Mar;90(3):127-30. doi: 10.1007/s00114-003-0405-8. Epub 2003 Feb 20.


Foraging desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis, encounter different sequences of visual landmarks while navigating by path integration. This paper explores the question whether the storage of landmark information depends on the context in which the landmarks are learned during an ant's foraging journey. Two experimental set-ups were designed in which the ants experienced an artificial landmark panorama that was placed either around the nest entrance (nest marks) or along the vector route leading straight towards the feeder (route marks). The two training paradigms resulted in pronounced differences in the storage characteristics of the acquired landmark information: memory traces of nest marks were much more robust against extinction and/or suppression than those of route marks. In functional terms, this result is in accord with the observation that desert ants encounter new route marks during every foraging run but always pass the same landmarks when approaching the nest entrance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Environment
  • Learning
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*