Dr Paul Graham is the Principal Investigator for a three year BBSRC grant researching how ants use, encode and identify natural panoramic scenes.
Being able to navigate between important locations is a fundamental requirement for almost all animals. Fortunately the world provides ample information for navigation in the form of stable objects which most animals perceive visually. Interestingly, when we look at animal navigation, we see the similar visual navigation strategies in animals from ants to humans; And ants provide an excellent system to study navigation as ant colonies have specialist foragers whose only purpose is to navigate between their nest and productive foraging grounds. The aim of our current project is to examine in the lab and field the ways in which ants use, encode and recognise natural visual scenes. Despite its importance for navigation, little is known about how any animal encodes and identifies a natural scene. Insects with their low resolution eyes and small brains are likely to have efficient ways of encoding scenes. The interest in the elegant solutions that ants have evolved for visual navigation comes from diverse fields. Ants are inspiring to biomimetic engineers and for psychologists they represent the minimal mechanistic and cognitive requirements for complex spatial behaviour.
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