Desert ants have adapted to life in a wilderness environment that provides very few reference points for orientation. Apart from the visual cues and odor, the ants use polarized sunlight as a compass, and to some extent, count your steps, all to return safely home after foraging.
In experiments with Cataglyphis ants of the genus in the wild in Tunisia and Turkey, a team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, has now discovered that ants can also use benchmarks magnetic and vibration find the way back to the entrance of their nest, a small hole in the desert floor.
In addition, the carbon dioxide produced by respiration of other ants in the nest also helps identify the input. Therefore, the navigational skills of ants are remarkably adaptable to the harsh environment.
In experiments, Cornelia Buehlmann team found that the ants of the species of Cataglyphis noda identified the entrance to their nest with no problem if a vibrating device (powered by electric batteries) are buried next to the entry, so that the ants could locate their nests using this vibrating point of reference, once they had learned to identify the vibration as a trait which coincided with the location of their nest.
If placed two powerful neodymium magnets that generate a magnetic field of about 21 millitesla (still only 0.041 millitesla the value of Earth’s magnetic field) on the floor beside the nest, the ants also detected the magnetic field and ended up using this feature as a way to locate their nest, which returned with ease.