Walking and running in the desert ant Cataglyphis fortis

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2015 Jun;201(6):645-56. doi: 10.1007/s00359-015-0999-2. Epub 2015 Apr 1.


Path integration, although inherently error-prone, is a common navigation strategy in animals, particularly where environmental orientation cues are rare. The desert ant Cataglyphis fortis is a prominent example, covering large distances on foraging excursions. The stride integrator is probably the major source of path integration errors. A detailed analysis of walking behaviour in Cataglyphis is thus of importance for assessing possible sources of errors and potential compensation strategies. Zollikofer (J Exp Biol 192:95-106, 1994a) demonstrated consistent use of the tripod gait in Cataglyphis, and suggested an unexpectedly constant stride length as a possible means of reducing navigation errors. Here, we extend these studies by more detailed analyses of walking behaviour across a large range of walking speeds. Stride length increases linearly and stride amplitude of the middle legs increases slightly linearly with walking speed. An initial decrease of swing phase duration is observed at lower velocities with increasing walking speed. Then it stays constant across the behaviourally relevant range of walking speeds. Walking speed is increased by shortening of the stance phase and of the stance phase overlap. At speeds larger than 370 mm s(-1), the stride frequency levels off, the duty factor falls below 0.5, and Cataglyphis transitions to running with aerial phases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Desert Climate*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Walking / physiology*