Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 65, Issue 4, pp 657–662 | Cite as

Does size affect orientation using celestial cues?

  • R. Palavalli-Nettimi
  • A. Narendra
Short Communication


Insects are well known to orient using celestial cues. The pattern of polarised skylight is the dominant celestial compass information that insects use, which they detect using a specialised set of ommatidia. The number of ommatidia decreases with body size, and it is unknown how this reduction in the number of ommatidia affects the precision of orienting using celestial cues. We investigated this in eight different ant species that had varying numbers of ommatidia. We captured ants returning home, displaced them to an unfamiliar location and measured their precision in determining heading direction using celestial cues. The heading direction of the ants measured at a fixed distance from the release and also at a distance scaled to their body size was not correlated with the number of ommatidia. However, both the path straightness and walking speed were lower in smaller ants indicating the ability to orient at a finer scale was affected by miniaturisation.


Miniaturisation Polarisation vision Dorsal rim area Compass cues 



We thank Jochen Zeil for hosting us at the ANU and the MQ neuroethology group and two reviewers for their helpful comments. The research was supported by the Australian Research Council (FT140100221 and DP150101172) and International Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship (iMQRES 2015141).

Compliance with ethical standards

Data accessibility

The data are provided in the electronic supplementary material and

Conflict of interest

We have no competing interests.

Ethical approval

Research on ants does not require animal ethical approval in Australia.

Supplementary material

40_2018_640_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (62 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 61 KB)
40_2018_640_MOESM2_ESM.docx (35 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 34 KB)


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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