The interplay between maze complexity, colony size, learning and memory in ants while solving a maze: A test at the colony level

Maya Saar, Tomer Gilad, Tal Kilon-Kallner, Adar Rosenfeld, Aziz Subach, Inon Scharf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Central-place foragers need to explore their immediate habitat in order to reach food. We let colonies of the individually foraging desert ant Cataglyphis niger search for a food reward in a maze. We did so for three tests per day over two successive days and an additional test after a time interval of 4–20 days (seven tests in total). We examined whether the colonies reached the food reward faster, consumed more food and changed the number of workers searching over time, within and between days. Colonies’ food-discovery time shortened within and between days, indicating that some workers learnt and became more efficient in moving through the maze. Such workers, however, also forgot and deteriorated in their food-discovery time, leveling off back to initial performance after about two weeks. We used mazes of increasing complexity levels, differing in the potential number of wrong turns. The number of workers searching increased with colony size. Food-discovery time also increased with colony size in complex mazes but not in simple ones, perhaps due to the more frequent interactions among workers in large colonies having to move through narrow routes. Finally, the motivation to solve the maze was probably not only the food reward, because food consumption did not change over time.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0183753
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume12
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2017

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