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J Neurobiol. 2006 May;66(6):511-21.

Age-dependent and task-related volume changes in the mushroom bodies of visually guided desert ants, Cataglyphis bicolor.

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Department of Zoology, Section of Neurobiology, University of Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, Zürich, Switzerland.


Desert ants of the genus Cataglyphis are skillful long-distance navigators employing a variety of visual navigational tools such as skylight compasses and landmark guidance mechanisms. However, the time during which this navigational toolkit comes into play is extremely short, as the average lifetime of a Cataglyphis forager lasts for only about 6 days. Here we show, by using immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy, and three-dimensional reconstruction software, that even during this short period of adult life, Cataglyphis exhibits a remarkable increase in the size of its mushroom bodies, especially of the visual input region, the collar, if compared to age-matched dark-reared animals. This task-related increase rides on a much smaller age-dependent increase of the size of the mushroom bodies. Due to the variation in body size exhibited by Cataglyphis workers we use allometric analyses throughout and show that small animals exhibit considerably larger task-related increases in the sizes of their mushroom bodies than larger animals do. It is as if there were an upper limit of mushroom body size required for accomplishing the ant's navigational tasks.

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