Event Abstract

Models of visual navigation in ants

  • 1 University of Sussex, Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics, United Kingdom
  • 2 University of Edinburgh, Informatics, United Kingdom

Here we present a model of visually guided navigation in ants that captures the known properties of real behaviour whilst retaining mechanistic simplicity and thus biological plausibility. For an ant, the coupling of movement and viewing direction means that a familiar view specifies a familiar direction of movement. Since the views experienced along a habitual route will be more familiar, route navigation can be re-cast as a search for familiar views. This search can be performed with a simple scanning routine, a behaviour ants have been observed to perform.

We test our model in a realistic simulation of a desert ant’s environment and also with images viewed by ants during behavioural experiments. Our results indicate that, not only is the approach successful, but also that the resultant behaviour shows characteristics of the paths of ants. As such, we believe the model provides a general demonstration that visually guided routes can be produced with parsimonious mechanisms that do not specify when or what to learn, nor separate routes into sequences of waypoints. Finally, we contrast our approach with the classical ‘snapshot’ model in which views are used as attractors to a point in space. This presentation summarises results from Baddeley et al. (2012) and Wystrach et al. (2013).


This work was funded by the the EPSRC, BBSRC and the Fyssen Foundation


Baddeley, B., Graham, P., Husbands, P. and Philippides, A. (2012) A Model of Ant Route Navigation Driven by Scene Familiarity. PLoS Computational Biology, 8 (1). e1002336.

Wystrach, A., Mangan, M., Philippides, A. and Graham, P. Snapshots in ants? New interpretations of paradigmatic experiments. J Exp Biol online: jeb.082941

Keywords: insect navigation, Visual homing, Desert ants, Modelling of Behaviour, Computational Biology

Conference: International Conference on Invertebrate Vision, Fjälkinge, Sweden, 1 Aug - 8 Aug, 2013.

Presentation Type: Oral presentation preferred

Topic: Navigation and orientation

Citation: Philippides A, Wystrach A, Mangan M, Baddeley B and Graham P (2019). Models of visual navigation in ants. Front. Physiol. Conference Abstract: International Conference on Invertebrate Vision. doi: 10.3389/conf.fphys.2013.25.00060

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Received: 19 Feb 2013; Published Online: 09 Dec 2019.

* Correspondence: Dr. Andrew Philippides, University of Sussex, Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics, Brighton, United Kingdom, andrewop@sussex.ac.uk