P2-269 Friday, Jan. 5 15:30 - 17:30 Visual navigation in the carpenter ant, Camponotus essigi. MAYNARD, R.H.*; WARNERT, R.; LENT, D.D.; Cal State Univ Fresno; Cal State Univ Fresno; Cal State Univ Fresno email@example.com
Among the central-place foraging ants, some wood ants are known to rely on robust visual cues to facilitate navigation. However, the mechanism some carpenter ants, which forage in the same areas as do wood ants, use these visual cues successfully to navigate isn’t well understood. To explore the visual features the carpenter ant (Camponotus essigi) uses for navigation, we trained a queen right colony over several weeks. Our experiment involved rewarding ants with sucrose upon reaching the base of a black cylinder landmark. Integrated into the training were two types of unrewarded tests. The first examined the ants’ ability to use the center of mass of an object (a black cylinder) as a useful feature from which to build a working memory for route navigation, and then to see if that memory might be carried over to a visually distinct object (a black cone). The second test looked at whether ants would continue to rely on the center of mass for navigation or possibly switch to other defining characteristics such as edges. This was determined based on how frequently the ants traveled toward the distinct, cone shape when given the choice between the two. Preliminary data shows that carpenter ants, using sucrose as a reward, can be readily trained to seek out specific landmarks. When tested on the novel landmark (black cone), ants likewise sought it out and conducted search patterns at its base for the sucrose reward. When presented with both the trained and the novel landmark, ants showed a distinct preference for the trained landmark. Our data suggests that, like the wood ant (Formica rufa), carpenter ants can discriminate between multiple characteristics of landmarks and use those for route navigation.