The present account answers the question of whether desert ants (Cataglyphis fortis) gauge the distance they have travelled by using self-induced lateral optic-flow parameters, as has been described for bees. The ants were trained to run to a distant food source within a channel whose walls were covered with black-and-white gratings. From the food source, they were transferred to test channels of double or half the training width, and the distance they travelled before searching for home and their walking speeds were recorded. Since the animals experience different motion parallax cues when walking in the broader or narrower channels, the optic-flow hypothesis predicted that the ants would walk faster and further in the broader channels, but more slowly and less far in the narrower channels. In contrast to this expectation, neither the walking speeds nor the searching distances depended on the width or height of the channels or on the pattern wavelengths. Even when ventral-field visual cues were excluded by covering the eyes with light-tight paint, the ants were not influenced by lateral optic flow-field cues. Hence, walking desert ants do not depend on self-induced visual flow-field cues in gauging the distance they have travelled, as do flying honeybees, but can measure locomotor distance exclusively by idiothetic means.
Lateral optic flow does not influence distance estimation in the desert ant Cataglyphis fortis
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B. Ronacher, K. Gallizzi, S. Wohlgemuth, R. Wehner; Lateral optic flow does not influence distance estimation in the desert ant Cataglyphis fortis. J Exp Biol 1 April 2000; 203 (7): 1113–1121. doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.203.7.1113
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