Navigation with Conflicting Cues in foraging Australian Desert Ant, Melophorus bagoti (#376)
Foraging ants are known to use multiple sources of information to return to the nest. These cues are employed by independent navigational systems including path integration in the case of celestial cues and vision-based learning in the case of landmarks and the panorama. As these cue sets are independent, they can be experimentally placed in conflict. The Australian desert ant species Melophorus bagoti will choose a compromise heading between the directions dictated by the celestial and terrestrial cues. When navigating on well known routes, foragers will travel in the nest direction indicated by the terrestrial cues of the panorama against the dictates of celestial cues. Here we explore this navigational decision further by testing newly emerged and experienced foragers given conflicting cue sets. We show that foragers with little experience of the surrounding terrestrial cues rely on path integration based cues to navigate while foragers with multiple experiences of the displacement site rely on learned terrestrial cues. The overriding of path integration by learned visual cues, however, appears to be influenced by recent foraging trips as experienced foragers will revert to the path-integration dictated nest direction after 24 hours with no experience of the displacement site.