Ants use multiple cues for navigating to a food source or nest location. Directional information is derived from pheromone trails or visual landmarks or celestial objects. Some ants use the celestial compass information along with an ‘odometer’ to determine the shortest distance home, a strategy known as path integration. Some trail-following ants utilise visual landmark information whereas few of the solitary-foraging ants rely on both path integration and visual landmark information. However, it is unknown to what degree trail-following ants use path integration and we investigated this in a trunk-trail-following ant, Iridomyrmex purpureus. Trunk-trail ants connect their nests to food sites with pheromone trails that contain long-lasting orientation information. We determined the use of visual landmarks and the ability to path integrate in a trunk-trail forming ant. We found that experienced animals switch to relying on visual landmark information, and naïve individuals rely on odour trails. Ants displaced to unfamiliar locations relied on path integration, but, surprisingly, they did not travel the entire homebound distance. We found that as the homebound distance increased, the distance ants travelled relying on the path integrator reduced.
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Vol. 64 • No. 3