[ExI] Ants use Sun and memories to navigate

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Fri Jan 20 12:24:40 UTC 2017

Ants are even more impressive at navigating than we thought.


Experiments suggest ants keep to the right path by plotting the Sun's
position in the sky which they combine with visual information about
their surroundings.

Living in large colonies, they need to forage for food and carry it
back to their nest.
This often requires dragging food long distances backwards.
UK and French researchers came up with their findings by studying desert ants.
Experiments suggest the ants kept to the right path by following
celestial cues. They set off in the wrong direction if a mirror was
used to obscure the Sun. If they were travelling backwards, dragging
food back to their nest, they combined this information with visual
cues. They stopped, dropped the food and took a quick peek at their

Prof Barbara Webb of the University of Edinburgh's School of
Informatics said the ant can navigate much like a self-driving car.
"Ants have a relatively tiny brain, less than the size of a pinhead," she said.
"Yet they can navigate successfully under many difficult conditions,
including going backwards".

The pinhead brains of insects are amazing. Understanding them will
really improve our computer designs.


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