Beautiful Science

A Cataglyphis bicolor ant is seen up close. Experienced forager ants of this species are known to carry interior nest workers between different nest sites. A new study suggests these ants can visually track the motion of objects as they find their wa
PHOTO: MATTHIAS WITTLINGER

A Cataglyphis bicolor ant is seen up close.

Experienced forager ants of this species are known to carry interior nest workers between different nest sites.

A new study suggests these ants can visually track the motion of objects as they find their way back to their nest when lost.

For the study, researchers from the Institute of Neurobiology in Ulm University in Germany connected the entrances of two neighbouring nests with a walking channel.

Once a forager ant carried its nest mate 10m in one direction, the two ants were separated.

The ant that was carried managed to get close to the home nest.

But control ants that were blindfolded when they were separated could not locate the home nest, suggesting optical cues are critical to gauging distance.

Researchers found this ability is independent of their ability to use steps taken to calculate distance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline 'Beautiful Science'. Print Edition | Subscribe