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Summer Science Exhibition 2010

How do insects find their way home?









The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Ants - photo by Stuart Robinson, University of Sussex

Researchers from University of Sussex are studying how insects are able to navigate long and complicated routes between their nest and food sources, despite their limited neural capabilities and low-resolution vision.

Ants, like many insects, have incredible way-finding abilities despite having brains 100,000 times smaller than a human’s. But how do they remember all these routes? Researchers have discovered that ants store visual ‘snapshots’ of the patterns made by objects against the sky at key points along their path, and later use the memory of these patterns to guide them along the route.

“Despite their small size, ants and bees can teach us a lot about the cognitive building blocks of intelligence, and inspire the design of artificial brains for autonomous robots,” says Dr Andrew Philippides, Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics, University of Sussex.

Can you navigate as well as an ant? Test your abilities on the ‘Ant Challenge’ and learn how insect-inspired algorithms can help robots find their way home.

Exhibited by University of Sussex.

See all exhibits from 2010

How do insects find their way home? The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK