Ant navigation en route to the goal: signature routes facilitate way-finding of Gigantiops destructor

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2006 Mar;192(3):221-34. doi: 10.1007/s00359-005-0064-7. Epub 2005 Oct 21.


We investigated in laboratory conditions how foragers of the tropical ant Gigantiops destructor develop individually distinctive landmark routes. Way-finding along a familiar route involved the recognition of at least two locations, nest and feeding site, and the representation of spatial relations between these places. Familiar visual landmarks were important both at the beginning and at the end of the foraging journey. A motor routine guided the ants at the start of their foraging path towards the first landmarks, which they learnt to pass consistently on the same side, before taking the next direction. At the last stage of the route, landmark recognition allowed them to pinpoint their preferred feeding site without using distant cues or odometric information. By contrast, ants en route to the goal were not systematically guided by a stereotyped sequence of snapshots recalled at each corresponding stage of the route. Each ant slalomed in an idiosyncratic distinctive way around different midway landmarks from a foraging excursion to the next, which induced a variability of the path shapes in their intermediate parts. By reducing the number of landmark recognition-triggered responses, this economical visuomotor strategy may be helpful in the Amazonian forest where many prominent landmarks are alike.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Distance Perception
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Homing Behavior
  • Learning
  • Motor Activity
  • Orientation
  • Tropical Climate
  • Vision, Ocular