The choreography of learning walks in the Australian jack jumper ant Myrmecia croslandi

J Exp Biol. 2018 Oct 24;221(Pt 20):jeb185306. doi: 10.1242/jeb.185306.


We provide a detailed analysis of the learning walks performed by Myrmecia croslandi ants at the nest during which they acquire visual information on its location. Most learning walks of 12 individually marked naïve ants took place in the morning with a narrow time window separating the first two learning walks, which most often occurred on the same day. Naïve ants performed between two and seven walks over up to four consecutive days before heading out to forage. On subsequent walks, naïve ants tend to explore the area around the nest in new compass directions. During learning walks, ants move along arcs around the nest while performing oscillating scanning movements. In a regular temporal sequence, the ants' gaze oscillates between the nest direction and the direction pointing away from the nest. Ants thus experience a sequence of views roughly across the nest and away from the nest from systematically spaced vantage points around the nest. Further, we show that ants leaving the nest for a foraging trip often walk in an arc around the nest on the opposite side to the intended foraging direction, performing a scanning routine indistinguishable from that of a learning walk. These partial learning walks are triggered by disturbance around the nest and may help returning ants with reorienting when overshooting the nest, which they frequently do. We discuss what is known about learning walks in different ant species and their adaptive significance for acquiring robust navigational memories.

Keywords: Ants; Homing; Learning walks; Scene memories; Visual navigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Australia
  • Exploratory Behavior
  • Homing Behavior*
  • Learning
  • Memory*
  • Walking

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.6972842.v1