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Biol Cybern. 2010 May;102(5):413-25. doi: 10.1007/s00422-010-0375-9. Epub 2010 Mar 19.

Simulated visual homing in desert ant natural environments: efficiency of skyline cues.

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Institute of Neurobiology, University of Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 28, 72076, Tübingen, Germany.


Desert ants, foraging in cluttered semiarid environments, are thought to be visually guided along individual, habitual routes. While other navigational mechanisms (e.g. path integration) are well studied, the question of how ants extract reliable visual features from a complex visual scene is still largely open. This paper explores the assumption that the upper outline of ground objects formed against the sky, i.e. the skyline, provides sufficient information for visual navigation. We constructed a virtual model of the ant's environment. In the virtual environment, panoramic images were recorded and adapted to the resolution of the desert ant's complex eye. From these images either a skyline code or a pixel-based intensity code were extracted. Further, two homing algorithms were implemented, a modified version of the average landmark vector (ALV) model (Lambrinos et al. Robot Auton Syst 30:39-64, 2000) and a gradient ascent method. Results show less spatial aliasing for skyline coding and best homing performance for ALV homing based on skyline codes. This supports the assumption of skyline coding in visual homing of desert ants and allows novel approaches to technical outdoor navigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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