Spatial cognition in the context of foraging styles and information transfer in ants

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Ants are central-place foragers: they always return to the nest, and this requires the ability to remember relationships between features of the environment, or an individual’s path through the landscape. The distribution of these cognitive responsibilities within a colony depends on a species’ foraging style. Solitary foraging as well as leader-scouting, which is based on information transmission about a distant targets from scouts to foragers, can be considered the most challenging tasks in the context of ants’ spatial cognition. Solitary foraging is found in species of almost all subfamilies of ants, whereas leader-scouting has been discovered as yet only in the Formica rufa group of species (red wood ants). Solitary foraging and leader-scouting ant species, although enormously different in their levels of sociality and ecological specificities, have many common traits of individual cognitive navigation, such as the primary use of visual navigation, excellent visual landmark memories, and the subordinate role of odour orientation. In leader-scouting species, spatial cognition and the ability to transfer information about a distant target dramatically differ among scouts and foragers, suggesting individual cognitive specialization. I suggest that the leader-scouting style of recruitment is closely connected with the ecological niche of a defined group of species, in particular, their searching patterns within the tree crown. There is much work to be done to understand what cognitive mechanisms underpin route planning and communication about locations in ants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1143-1159
Number of pages17
JournalAnimal Cognition
Volume23
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Ants
  • Communication
  • Leader-scouting
  • Memory
  • Navigation
  • Solitary foraging
  • Spatial cognition
  • HYMENOPTERA
  • LANDMARK GUIDANCE
  • WOOD ANTS
  • SOCIAL PARASITISM
  • LEARNING WALKS
  • NUMERICAL COMPETENCE
  • FORMICA-JAPONICA
  • DESERT ANTS
  • COMMUNICATION-SYSTEM
  • NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS
  • Cognition
  • Orientation
  • Animals
  • Social Behavior

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