Ants are very good navigators. The ants who
find food for the colony have to be able to go far
from home, then find their way back carrying large
things. They may go as far as two football
fields away from their tiny ant holes.
As they go, they leave behind a trail of
chemicals that they follow home. When they are
searching, they might run into all sorts of
obstacles that they have to go over, under,
around, or through. This means that just
backtracking on their own trails is not good
enough. They have to be able to find a fast way
back. There are thousands of species of ants that
may use different kinds of navigation. Some use
landmarks, the sun, the earth’s magnetic field,
memory of the directions and distance they have
traveled, or other methods we haven’t even thought
Why would using the sun be a good landmark to
use? Why would using the sun create even more
challenges? (Hint: the ant’s trip might take a
Thanks for asking.
This is an interesting question! Have you ever
noticed how ants that are scouting for food can
take a long, meandering path, but then when
they've found food and want to communicate this
information to their colony, they can travel
directly back in a straight line?
There have been research projects that indicate
that while ants use pheromones (chemicals) to
initially navigate through some terrain, they
might also be storing "images" of landmarks along
the way, as well as counting steps. Some species
of ants might even orient themselves by using the
sun or the Earth's magnetic field.
So to answer your question, does an ant have
intelligence to go through a maze? I think, that
with these tools, an ant could navigate a maze.
Using the combination of pheromones, landmarks,
and counting steps, the ant could probably figure
out which paths lead to dead ends, make it back to
forks in the paths, and try new paths and continue
such an algorithm until it made it out.
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