August 8, 2022

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An international team reveals how ants remember the way to their homes |  Science

An international team reveals how ants remember the way to their homes | Science

Ants always confuse researchers with many things, and more recently researchers have been interested in learning about ants’ memory, and have discovered how they can find their way to their homes and colonies no matter how far they travel in search of their livelihood. Insects have amazing abilities, so ants living in desert salt flats can travel many miles, always knowing their location and knowing the way to their habitats.

According to an international panel of researchers from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Macquarie and the University of Lund, The Conversation has surprised researchers with no signs or features.

In contrast, like the great researchers such as Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan, ants use the position of the sun in the sky as a compass and its own motion to estimate distance.

To give a clear picture of what these amazing insects do, a kilometer is 100,000 times the length of an ant’s body. This is the equivalent of a man’s walk from New York to Washington, DC (approximately 656 kilometers), knowing the exact direction and distance to travel at any time without the use of guides or geographical features.

Inside the insect’s brain

Thanks to recent advances in genetics and great advances in microscopy, scientists have been able to release different brain cells of different colors of light, and this achievement has allowed researchers to differentiate individual neurons and separate them from each other in the neural network. This technology was used to learn how the insect’s brain monitors its direction and how the brain can calculate the distance it has traveled by constantly adding to its memory its current speed as it flies.

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Scientists have discovered how the direction and distance an insect travels is encrypted by neurons in its brain, but how is this important information stored in its memory so that it can return to its home?

“Honestly, it’s a puzzle. Fast-moving insects need to constantly refresh their memory of flying direction and distance, but they can remember it for days.

Fast-moving insects need to refresh their memory of direction and distance (Shutterstock).

Why did scientists freeze ants?

Usually, when these insects are released into an unfamiliar place, they will run straight to where their habitat was. That is, they will walk parallel to their natural path, and once they have gone the expected distance, they will begin to search the entrances to the apartments.

But the researchers found that the frozen insects moved in the expected direction, but forgot how far they had to travel, which meant they began searching the entrance to the residence.

It was initially confusing that distant memory deteriorated when orientation memory was preserved – this finding did not make a clear distinction between the short-term (forgotten) and long-term (allocated) memory that researchers expected. But they believe the best explanation for this phenomenon is not two separate memories, but a single shared memory that encodes both direction and distance – and somewhat decomposes during freezing.

The frozen insects moved in the expected direction, but forgot how far they had to go (Getty Images)

Usually, if these insects are left in an unfamiliar place, they will run straight to where their nests were. That is, they walk parallel to their natural path and once they reach the expected distance, they begin to search for nest entrances.

But the researchers found that the frozen insects moved in the opposite direction, but forgot how far they had to go – meaning they began to search the nest entrance.

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It was initially confusing that distant memory deteriorated when orientation memory was preserved – this finding did not make a clear distinction between the short-term (forgotten) and long-term (allocated) memory that researchers expected. But they believe the best explanation for this phenomenon is not two separate memories, but a single shared memory that encodes both direction and distance – and somewhat decomposes during freezing.

Distance and direction are referred to as Cartesian coordinates (Ioannis Besukas – The Conversion).

The secret of Cartesian integration

Research has shown that insects remember distance and direction as Cartesian coordinates, and instead of remembering distance and direction (or angle) they remember x- and y-coordinates and remember their location.

In mathematics, the Cartesian coordinate system is used to find a point on a plane in two numbers, commonly called x coordinate and y coordinate, and the unit of length or inclination must be defined, which we show on two axes. Using this system, geometric shapes can be expressed using algebraic equations, and coordinates can be applied in space (using 3 coordinates) or in larger dimensions.

The system is named after Renே Descartes, a French mathematician and philosopher who worked on the integration of algebra and Euclidean geometry, and this work is important in the analysis of geometry and the study of functions and graphs.

Knowing how the insect brain remembers the way home helps us to understand how we do it (Getty Images)

Insects used Cartesian integration systems to locate their homes long before Descartes formalized this concept. If the insects lose their memory, the two coordinate values ​​will be reduced, and if they assume that they lose identical memory on both axes, they will end up at short distances, but at the same angle or direction.

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Whether we are humans or insects, we all need to go home, and learning how the insect brain remembers the way home can help us understand how we as humans function.