Yusuke Notomi, Tomoki Kazawa, So Maezawa, Ryohei Kanzaki, Stephan Shuichi Haupt
Zoological Science 39 (6), 529-544, (12 October 2022) https://doi.org/10.2108/zs220035
KEYWORDS: visual cue, orientation, beacon aiming, innate behavior, behavioral plasticity, comparative morphology
Many insects, including ants, are known to respond visually to conspicuous objects. In this study, we compared orientation in an arena containing only a black target beacon as local information in six species of ants of widely varying degree of phylogenic relatedness, foraging strategy, and eye morphology (Aphaenogaster, Brachyponera, Camponotus, Formica, and two Lasius spp.), often found associated in similar urban anthropogenic habitats. Four species of ants displayed orientation toward the beacon, with two orienting toward it directly, while the other two approached it via convoluted paths. The two remaining species did not show any orientation with respect to the beacon. The results did not correlate with morphological parameters of the visual systems and could not be fully interpreted in terms of the species' ecology, although convoluted paths are linked to higher significance of chemical signals. Beacon aiming was shown to be an innate behavior in visually naive Formica workers, which, however, were less strongly attracted to the beacon than older foragers. Thus, despite sharing the same habitats and supposedly having similar neural circuits, even a very simple stimulus-related behavior in the absence of other information can differ widely in ants but is likely an ancestral trait retained especially in species with smaller eyes. The comparative analysis of nervous systems opens the possibility of determining general features of circuits responsible for innate and possibly learned attraction toward particular stimuli.