Behaviour 2019
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How Developing a New Motor Routine During Spatial Learning
Muzahid Islam1, Sudhakar Deeti1, Trevor Murray 1, Zakia Mahmudah2, Franne Kamhi3, Paul Graham 4, Ken Cheng1. 1Department of Biological Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia; 2School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW, Sydney, NSW, Australia; 3Department of Computational Neuroscience, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH , United States; 4School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Sussex, Brighton , United Kingdom

This study aims to investigate spatial learning and decision making in a nocturnal bull ant, Myrmecia midas, on their foraging route. A wooden platform was set up between the ants’ foraging tree and nest, with a 7.5 cm high steel barrier mounted on the platform which had 7.5 cm nest-side symmetrical gaps. In Experiment-1, we found that ants learned the spatial changes gradually over successive learning trips. On the 1st trip, ants traveled with more scanning, less path straightness, many stops, and taking a longer time compared to control trips. Over trials, ants improved their learning performance. When we manipulated the position of the gaps and front barrier or removed the barrier altogether, ants mostly showed their learned motor routine, traveling a similar path as before. In Experiment-2, ants showed that the process of learning began from their very 1st learning trips. When foragers were released at 50 cm left or right a side which was opposite to their last successful learning trips, most of the ants decided to follow the same navigational direction and exited through the same gap as they chose in their last learning trips.