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Optic flow odometry operates independently of stride integration in carried ants

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Science  09 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6304, pp. 1155-1157
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf9754

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Abstract

Cataglyphis desert ants are impressive navigators. When the foragers roam the desert, they employ path integration. For these ants, distance estimation is one key challenge. Distance information was thought to be provided by optic flow (OF)—that is, image motion experienced during travel—but this idea was abandoned when stride integration was discovered as an odometer mechanism in ants. We show that ants transported by nest mates are capable of measuring travel distance exclusively by the use of OF cues. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the information gained from the optic flowmeter cannot be transferred to the stride integrator. Our results suggest a dual information channel that allows the ants to measure distances by strides and OF cues, although both systems operate independently and in a redundant manner.

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