Are ants sensitive to the geometry of tunnel bifurcation?

Anim Cogn. 2008 Oct;11(4):637-42. doi: 10.1007/s10071-008-0153-4. Epub 2008 May 6.


The ability to orient and navigate in space is essential for all animals whose home range is organized around a central point. Because of their small home range compared to vertebrates, central place foraging insects such as ants have for a long time provided a choice model for the study of orientation mechanisms. In many ant species, the movement of individuals on their colony home range is achieved essentially collectively, on the chemical trails laid down by their nest mates. In the initial stage of food recruitment, these trails can cross each other and thus form a network of interconnected paths in which ants have to orient. Previous simulation studies have shown that ants can find the shortest path between their nest and a food source in such a network only if there is a bias in the branch they choose when they reach an asymmetrical bifurcation. In this paper, we studied the choice of ants when facing either a symmetrical or an asymmetrical bifurcation between two tunnels. Ants were tested either on their way to a food source or when coming back to their nest, and either in the presence or in the absence of a chemical trail. Overall, our results show that the choice of an ant at a tunnel bifurcation depends more on the presence/absence of a trail pheromone than on the geometry of the bifurcation itself.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ants
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Environment
  • Maze Learning*
  • Orientation*
  • Space Perception*
  • Spatial Behavior*