UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
Home
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Webcasts
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Does an ant have the intelligence to go through a maze?
Answer 1:

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 about.

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 long time).

Thanks for asking.

Answer 2:

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.



Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use