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Landmarks and ant search strategies after interrupted tandem runs

Bruendl, Aisha C.; Basari, Norasmah; Hemingway, Charlotte E.; Roberts, Nicholas W.; Sendova-Franks, Ana B.; Franks, Nigel R.

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Aisha C. Bruendl

Norasmah Basari

Charlotte E. Hemingway

Nicholas W. Roberts

Ana Sendova-Franks
Associate Professor in Biometry & Animal Behaviour

Nigel R. Franks


© 2014. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. During a tandem run, a single leading ant recruits a single follower to an important resource such as a new nest. To examine this process, we used a motorized gantry, which has not previously been used in ant studies, to track tandem running ants accurately in a large arena and we compared their performance in the presence of different types of landmark. We interrupted tandem runs by taking away the leader and moved a large distant landmark behind the new nest just at the time of this separation. Our aim was to determine what information followers might have obtained from the incomplete tandem run they had followed, and how they behaved after the tandem run had been interrupted. Our results show that former followers search by using composite random strategies with elements of sub-diffusive and diffusive movements. Furthermore, when we provided more landmarks former followers searched for longer. However, when all landmarks were removed completely from the arena, the ants' search duration lasted up to four times longer. Hence, their search strategy changes in the presence or absence of landmarks. Even after extensive search of this kind, former followers headed back to their old nest but did not return along the path of the tandem run they had followed. The combination of the position to which the large distant landmark behind the new nest was moved and the presence or absence of additional landmarks influenced the orientation of the former followers' paths back to the old nest. We also found that these ants exhibit behavioural lateralization in which they possibly use their right eye more than their left eye to recognize landmarks for navigation. Our results suggest that former follower ants learn landmarks during tandem running and use this information to make strategic decisions.


Bruendl, A. C., Basari, N., Hemingway, C. E., Roberts, N. W., Sendova-Franks, A. B., & Franks, N. R. (2014). Landmarks and ant search strategies after interrupted tandem runs. Journal of Experimental Biology, 217(6), 944-954.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 28, 2013
Online Publication Date Nov 6, 2013
Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Deposit Date Mar 24, 2014
Publicly Available Date Nov 15, 2016
Journal Journal of Experimental Biology
Print ISSN 0022-0949
Publisher Company of Biologists
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 217
Issue 6
Pages 944-954
Keywords temnothorax albipennis, navigation, search behaviour, behavioural lateralization
Public URL
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