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Uncovering the complexity of ant foraging trails.
Communicative and Integrative Biology
The common garden ant Lasius niger use both trail pheromones and memory of past visits to navigate to and from food sources. In a recent paper we demonstrated a synergistic effect between route memory and trail pheromones: the presence of trail pheromones results in experienced ants walking straighter and faster. We also found that experienced ants leaving a pheromone trail deposit less pheromone. Here we focus on another finding of the experiment: the presence of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs), which are used as home range markers by ants, also affects pheromone deposition behavior. When walking on a trail on which CHCs are present but trail pheromones are not, experienced foragers deposit less pheromone on the outward journey than on the return journey. The regulatory mechanisms ants use during foraging and recruitment behavior is subtle and complex, affected by multiple interacting factors such as route memory, travel direction and the presence trail pheromone and home-range markings.
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