Volume 7: pp. 1-22

How to navigate without maps: The power of taxon-like navigation in ants

by Ken Cheng,
Macquarie University

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Rodents are said to have two different navigational systems, a map-like locale system and a route-based taxon system consisting of sensorimotor routines such as beaconing and turns at appropriate stimulus conditions (motor routines). Ants on the other hand are not known for map-like navigation, and seem to get by with a repertoire of taxon-like strategies. I review how this repertoire serves ants in making up for the lack of a locale system. Path integration — keeping track of the straight-line distance and direction from the starting point — operates continuously in the background, and can be called upon as necessary, or relied on in habitats in which no useful visual cues are available. Crucial to the power of a taxon-like repertoire is using the full panoramic visual context, both to guide the operation of strategies (context-modulated servomechanisms) and to guide navigation directly. The entire repertoire is backed up by systematic search strategies. I end with some reflections on the power of taxon-like strategies.

Keywords: ant, navigatio, views, vectors, taxon

Cheng, K. (2012). How to navigate without maps: The power of taxon-like navigation in ants. Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews, 7, 1-22. Retrieved from http://comparative-cognition-and-behavior-reviews.org/ doi:10.3819/ccbr.2012.70001