The Central Australian ant Melophorus bagoti is the most thermophilic ant in Australia and forages solitarily in the summer months during the hottest period of the day. For successful navigation, desert ants of many species are known to integrate a path and learn landmark cues around the nest. Ants perform a series of exploratory walks around the nest before their first foraging trip, during which they are presumed to learn about their landmark panorama. Here, we studied 15 naïve M. bagoti ants transitioning from indoor work to foraging outside the nest. In three to four consecutive days, they performed 3 to 7 exploratory walks before heading off to forage. Naïve ants increased the area of exploration around the nest and the duration of trips over successive learning walks. In their first foraging walk, the majority of the ants followed a direction explored on their last learning walk. During learning walks, the ants stopped and performed stereotypical orientation behaviours called pirouettes. They performed complete body rotations with stopping phases as well as small circular walks without stops known as voltes. After just one learning walk, these desert ants could head in the home direction from locations 2 m from the nest, although not from locations 4 m from the nest. These results suggest gradual learning of the visual landmark panorama around the foragers’ nest. Our observations show that M. bagoti exhibit similar characteristics in their learning walks as other desert ants of the genera Ocymyrmex and Cataglyphis.

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