The navigation by scene familiarity hypothesis provides broad explanatory power for how bees and ants navigate from the hive to distant food sources and back. The premise is that the visual world is decomposed into pixelated matrices of information that are stored and readdressed as the insects retrace learned routes. Innate behaviors in these insects (including learning walks/flights and path integration) provide the important goal-directed views to allow the initial retracing (i.e., the insect must learn the scene while moving toward the goal because everything looks different while moving away). Scorpion navigation may use a similar premise, with the chemical and textural features of the environment substituting for visual input. Scorpion pectines support thousands of chemo- and mechano-sensitive units called peg sensilla, each containing at least 10 energetically expensive sensory neurons. We have long wondered why pectines have so many pegs and associated neurons. Many sand scorpions emerge onto the surface from their home burrows at night to pursue insect prey and somehow find their way back to their burrows. Based on the measured resolution of peg sensilla, we have calculated that sufficient information exists in sand's texture to enable scorpions to retrace previously experienced paths with little to no chance of confusion. Preliminary evidence of learning walks and path integration in scorpions is also congruent with the navigation by chemo-textural familiarity hypothesis.
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Vol. 45 • No. 3