【Frontiers】Research that ant's positioning and navigation capability can inspire the design of robots and automatic vehicles

: Ants are famous for diligence and teamwork in most people's minds. Recently, it has been discovered that ant amazing places are more than just that. Their positioning and navigation capabilities are far more complicated than people think. The ability is stronger than we thought. The scientists found that regardless of which direction ants faced, they could handle the analysis and navigate successfully.

The scientists involved in the study came from all over the world and included a research team from the University of Edinburgh, UK, who studied how a group of desert ants in Seville, Spain, can determine the route when carrying different sizes of food. Dr. Antoine Wystrach, who participated in the study, stated that they found that the directional abilities of ants were not affected by the direction of the body. Even changing their current body direction did not affect the ability to maintain the direction of movement.

A large number of ants co-exist in the community with socialized organizational forms. The division of labor and communication between them has always been an issue of interest to scientists. But in fact there is no need to look at the entire ant social structure. A single small ant is worth studying. The worker ants in the ant nest are responsible for finding the food and returning the food to the ant nest for storage, so it is often necessary to pull the food back far from the ant nest.


Scientists have previously discovered that ants can use the position of the sun and locate the homeward route to the surrounding visual memory, but previously believed that these two methods are independent behaviors, and ants need to face the direction of travel to locate. However, in fact, ants move forward with heavier foods, and the latest research shows that ants need to look back from time to time to confirm the surrounding environment, and then use the information they see to determine the route based on the location of the sun. The research team found that in this way, insects can maintain their own nesting route no matter how they face.

Because when ants are carrying smaller foods, they are facing the direction of travel while carrying food, but when carrying larger and heavier foods, they will instead drag food and go backwards. The research team placed a depression in the ant's way back into the nest to create a single course of travel, and then let the ants carry large pieces and small pieces of biscuits, and then observe how the ants find their way home. The results of the study show that when researchers use mirrors to mislead ants into judging the position of the sun, the ants will be out of the correct route.

Use sun position to determine direction

In previous studies, scientists believed that as ants marched forward, they would compare the current sight with visual memory to find the right path. Now the research team found that when ants move forward in reverse, they will use the position of the sun as the basis for judging direction. When the ant is moving backwards, in order to ensure his or her direction is correct, the occupants will put down the carried goods for a certain period of time and turn to the direction of the travel direction. When they turn positive, they can observe the surrounding environment to compare with the previous memory and readjust their directions when they get lost.

The results of such studies show that ants can deal with the interrelationship between space and space in the external environment, rather than only understanding the relationship between itself and the current space. Ants are very small in size, but their brains are unexpectedly complex. Their mastery of orientation is much more complicated than human imagination. In their small brains, they can combine different forms of information into complete judgments. Make a performance. This information transfer phenomenon also shows that different forms of information in the ant brain can work synergistically in different brain regions. The research team also stated that their future research direction may be to solve the interactions and interactions between different blocks of ant brains and to understand how insects combine different navigation methods.

The study was conducted in collaboration with scientists from the University of Lincoln, the Australian National University and the National Research Centre of France (CNRS). Research results have recently been published in the scientific journal Current Biology. These flexible and robust navigation methods found on ants have inspired the development of new computer algorithms that can guide robot operations step by step.

Barbara Webb, a professor at the University of Edinburgh School of Information, said that although the ant's brain is only as large as a needle, it can successfully find the correct route under many difficult conditions. Even walking backwards is not a problem. They navigate like an autonomous vehicle. car.

Studying the behavioral patterns of ant positioning navigation can enhance our understanding of brain functions and inspire us to construct robotic internal systems with similar principles. Scientists have been able to simulate the neural circuits in the brain of ants. They may be able to help robots in the future, and they can also navigate in natural environments such as forests.

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