Original Paper


, Volume 94, Issue 7, pp 589-594

First online:

Wind and sky as compass cues in desert ant navigation

  • Martin MüllerAffiliated withInstitute of Zoology, University of Zürich
  • , Rüdiger WehnerAffiliated withInstitute of Zoology, University of Zürich Email author 

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While integrating their foraging and homing paths, desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis, depend on external compass cues. Whereas recent research in bees and ants has focused nearly exclusively on the polarization compass, two other compass systems—the sun compass and the wind (anemo) compass—as well as the mutual interactions of all these compass systems have received little attention. In this study, we show that of the two visual compass systems, it is only the polarization compass that invariably outcompetes the wind compass, while the sun compass does so only under certain conditions. If the ants are experimentally deprived of their polarization compass system, but have access simultaneously to both their sun compass and their wind compass, they steer intermediate courses. The intermediate courses shift the more towards the wind compass course, the higher the elevation of the sun is in the sky.


Skylight compass Wind compass Cataglyphis fortis Polarized skylight