An eye for flight and an eye for night: mode of locomotion and activity time are drivers of ant visual system (#110)
Ants are unusual animals wherein individuals living in the same colony experience dramatic differences in lifestyle and visual ecology. Ant workers are sterile females and are exclusively pedestrian. Both diurnal and nocturnal workers use vision to navigate, to track targets and to avoid obstacles and predators, but remain within the dark confines of nest during resting periods. Alate females experience diurnal or nocturnal light conditions when they fly from the nest for mating, following which they shed their wings, become pedestrian and lead the rest of their lives in the dark confines of the nest as a queen. They only use vision in a brief but crucial stage of their life to control flight, to navigate and to avoid obstacles and predators. Alate males also experience either bright or dim light conditions when they leave the nest for mating. In addition to the vision-related tasks carried out by alate females, males also locate and track females and fight off competitors. Here, I will describe how visual structures (both, compound eyes and ocelli) between castes within an ant colony are tuned to the specific tasks individuals carry out.