Meeting Abstract

S11-7  Sunday, Jan. 8 11:30 - 12:00  Behavioural and neural adaptations in ants for navigating in dim light NARENDRA, A*; KAMHI, JF; SHEEHAN, Z; Macquarie University, Sydney; Macquarie University, Sydney; Macquarie University, Sydney

The phenomenon of niche differentiation has long been considered the basis for coexistence of competitors and as reflecting the way in which animals avoid predation. While habitat and food-type partitioning are common, avoiding competition and predation by restricting activities to specific times of day were thought to be rare. However recent findings in a number of animal communities suggest temporal niche partitioning to be more common than previously recognized. Given the differences in ambient light intensity between day and night, it would appear that diurnal and nocturnal species require very different physiological adaptations to occupy their respective niches. To understand these adaptations, one requires a benchmark information processing task. One such task that is comparable across animals is visual navigation that scales from a few centimeters to several kilometers. Using this task allows us to identify the behavioural and neural adaptations that animals have evolved to be active in dim light and to also pinpoint the ‘information processing cost’ to be paid for occupying discrete temporal niches. Here we will focus on the ants, since (a) they allow us to record with high precision the navigational decisions and errors they make along their entire journeys under natural conditions and (b) they offer an opportunity to identify the evolution of sensory structures for discrete temporal niches not only between species but also within a single species. We will discuss the current state of knowledge on the external visual sensory arrays and adaptations in the higher order visual information processing centers that allows both diurnal and nocturnal ants to navigate in their respective visual environments.