Ants Use Multiple Spatial Memories and Chemical Pointers to Navigate Their Nest

Yael Heyman, Yael Vilk, Ofer Feinerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Animal navigation relies on the available environmental cues and, where present, visual cues typically dominate. While much is known about vision-assisted navigation, knowledge of navigation in the dark is scarce. Here, we combine individual tracking, dynamic modular nest structures, and spatially resolved chemical profiling to study how Camponotus fellah ants navigate within the dark labyrinth of their nest. We find that, contrary to ant navigation above ground, underground navigation cannot rely on long-range information. This limitation emphasizes the ants' capabilities associated with other navigational strategies. Indeed, apart from gravity, underground navigation relies on self-referenced memories of multiple locations and on socially generated chemical cues placed at decision points away from the target. Moreover, the ants quickly readjust the weights attributed to these information sources in response to environmental changes. Generally, studying well-known behaviors in a variety of environmental contexts holds the potential of revealing new insights into animal cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-276
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 26 Apr 2019


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