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Annu Rev Entomol. 2016;61:63-76. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-010715-023703. Epub 2015 Nov 2.

The Sensory Ecology of Ant Navigation: From Natural Environments to Neural Mechanisms.

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Department of Evolutionary Neuroethology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, 07745 Jena, Germany; email:
Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9RH, United Kingdom; email:


Animals moving through the world are surrounded by potential information. But the components of this rich array that they extract will depend on current behavioral requirements and the animal's own sensory apparatus. Here, we consider the types of information available to social hymenopteran insects, with a specific focus on ants. This topic has a long history and much is known about how ants and other insects use idiothetic information, sky compasses, visual cues, and odor trails. Recent research has highlighted how insects use other sensory information for navigation, such as the olfactory cues provided by the environment. These cues are harder to understand because they submit less easily to anthropomorphic analysis. Here, we take an ecological approach, considering first what information is available to insects, then how different cues might interact, and finally we discuss potential neural correlates of these behaviors.


cue integration; multimodal; navigation; olfaction; sensory ecology; vision

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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