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Open Access: CC BY 4.0


Czaczkes, T.J.

Year: 2022


Advanced cognition in ants

Journal: Myrmecological News

Pages: 51-64

Type of contribution: Review Article

Supplementary material: No


Interest in the advanced cognitive abilities of insects has grown rapidly over the past decades. However, most studies have taken place on a handful of model organisms: fruit flies, honey bees, and bumblebees. Ants are in many ways ideal models for the study of cognition, offering a wide range of ecologies, often coupled with ease of training and maintenance. This review aims to collate the often disparate research on advanced cognition in ants. I focus specifically on “advanced” cognition, which is defined as requiring mental abstraction, internal self-reference, or control. Ants have been demonstrated to show impressive cognitive control abilities, suppressing a dominant response (e.g., feeding) in order to carry out a secondary goal (e.g., searching for a feeding tool). Tool use is well documented in ants, including tool manufacture and situation-dependent tool selection and use. Some evidence of abstract algorithmic sequence learning (e.g., repeated left-right turns) has been shown, as well as suggestions of metacognitive abilities such as estimating their own uncertainty. Some evidence pointing to successful relational-concept learning (e.g., “same” vs. “different”) has been reported, but not all experiments searching for this were successful. I end the review by highlighting specific areas of ant cognition that may offer large rewards for intrepid researchers. The study of advanced cognition in ants is still in its early stages, and there are many opportunities for exploration and discovery.

Open access, licensed under CC BY 4.0. © 2022 The Author(s).

Key words: Review, tool use, meta-cognition, pattern learning, concept learning, cognitive control, Formicidae, Hymenoptera.

Publisher: The Austrian Society of Entomofaunistics

ISSN: 1997-3500

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