Berlin: Foraging desert ants seem to find their way back home even if the barren environment is bereft of landmarks.
Apart from visual cues and odours, ants can also use magnetic and vibrational landmarks to navigate their way home, a tiny hole in the ground, say behavioural scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Germany.
They wanted to find out whether these insects, adapted to landscapes providing a minimum of cues, are able to use magnetism and vibrational signals in the absence of other landmarks.
“We were very surprised that this is actually the case,” says Cornelia Buehlmann from Max Planck, who performed the experiments.
Besides, carbon dioxide produced by their nestmates’ breathing also helps homing ants to pinpoint their nest entrance. Hence, the ants’ navigational skills prove enormously adaptable to their inhospitable environment, according to a Max Planck statement.
For ants, it is a question of life and death to find the right nest because they may be killed or at least attacked by resident ants if they enter the wrong nest accidentally.
It is known from leaf-cutting ants that they use vibrational signals for communication. That ants – like birds – also sense Earth’s magnetic field, becomes more and more likely.