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Asymmetric ommatidia count and behavioural lateralization in the ant Temnothorax albipennis

Hunt, Edmund; Dornan, Samina; Sendova-Franks, Ana; Franks, Nigel


Edmund Hunt

Samina Dornan

Ana Sendova-Franks
Associate Professor in Biometry & Animal Behaviour

Nigel Franks


© 2018 The Author(s). Workers of the house-hunting ant Temnothorax albipennis rely on visual edge following and landmark recognition to navigate their rocky environment, and they also exhibit a leftward turning bias when exploring unknown nest sites. We used electron microscopy to count the number of ommatidia composing the compound eyes of workers, males and queens, to make an approximate assessment of their relative sampling resolution; and to establish whether there is an asymmetry in the number of ommatidia composing the workers' eyes, which might provide an observable, mechanistic explanation for the turning bias. We hypothesise that even small asymmetries in relative visual acuity between left and right eyes could be magnified by developmental experience into a symmetry-breaking turning preference that results in the inferior eye pointing toward the wall. Fifty-six workers were examined: 45% had more ommatidia in the right eye, 36% more in the left, and 20% an equal number. A tentative connection between relative ommatidia count for each eye and turning behaviour was identified, with a stronger assessment of behavioural lateralization before imaging and a larger sample suggested for further work. There was a clear sexual dimorphism in ommatidia counts between queens and males.


Hunt, E., Dornan, S., Sendova-Franks, A., & Franks, N. (2018). Asymmetric ommatidia count and behavioural lateralization in the ant Temnothorax albipennis. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 5825.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 15, 2018
Publication Date Dec 1, 2018
Journal Scientific Reports
Electronic ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Research (part of Springer Nature)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 1
Pages 5825
Keywords animal behaviour, complexity, electron microscopy, morphogenesis
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