Views and Active Vision (#394)
Vision provides crucial information for navigation and insects are known for visually memorizing routes and places. Interestingly, both during the acquisition and the use of visual memories, insects - much like vertebrates - employ saccadic eye movements, while stabilizing the roll and pitch orientation of their visual system, because the misalignment of views degrades the navigational information content of panoramic images (Raderschall et al. 2015).
Ants, wasps and bees are central place foragers, which actively acquire visual location memories of their nest or food locations during highly choreographed learning walks and flights (reviewed in Zeil 2012). In both learning procedures, the insects systematically scan the visual environment in a saccadic fashion, while at the same time carefully monitoring their position and orientation relative to the goal, so that each view is ‘tagged’ with the target location. It is this relationship between learnt views and target location, which allows insects to subsequently find back to places.
When ant foragers are displaced, they scan the scene, before deciding on a heading direction (Narendra et al. 2013, Zeil et al. 2014). The need for scanning most probably reflects the ants’ inability to ‘mentally rotate’ their visual memories and the fact that their visual fields are not fully panoramic.
Zeil J (2012) Visual Homing – An Insect Perspective. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 22:285–293
Narendra A, Gourmaud S, Zeil J (2013) Mapping the navigational knowledge of individually foraging ants, Myrmecia croslandi. Proc R Soc B 280: 20130683.
Zeil J, Narendra A, Stürzl W (2014) Looking and Homing: How displaced ants decide where to go. Phil Trans B 369: 20130034.
Raderschall CA, Narendra A, Zeil J (2015) Head roll stabilisation in the nocturnal bull ant Myrmecia pyriformis: Implications for visual navigation. Proc Roy Soc B (submitted)