learning activity: Home location by
interactive exercise complements a web page describing the use
of ethological techniques to investigate animal behaviour.
on home location by digger wasps
digger wasps, Philanthus triangulum, build nests
in sand. The nest consists of an entrance tunnel leading to several
'rooms' each containing a developing larva. The wasp catches bees on
hunting trips and stores this food in each room occupied by a larva.
This behaviour begs several questions:
a wasp return to her own nest?
each wasp have more than one nest?
does a wasp recognize her own nest when she returns from a hunting trip?
can probably think of ways to answer the first two questions. Tip
you need some way of identifying individual wasps and their nests.
carried out an elegant experiment to answer the last question:
the wasp was in the burrow, Tinbergen placed a circle of pine
cones around the entrance.
she emerged, the wasp reacted to the new situation by a wavering
orientation flight before flying off.
displaced the pine cones to one side of the
nest, observed her behaviour when she emerged, and then waited for her
to return from hunting
the wasp emerged from the nest she made several
flights around the nest before flying off to hunt for bees.
with prey, the wasp flew to the circle of pine cones
even though it had been moved during her absence.
These diagrams show the arrangement of pine cones during training and
testing. The animation shows the wasp's flight behaviour during
training and test conditions. You may need to watch it repeat a few
times to understand what is going on.
: When the cones drenched in pine oil (scented plates)
were moved to one side of the real nest and the pine-cone circle and
non-scented plates to the other, the wasp choose to alight on the pine
cones. She ignored the scented plates.
Click here to reveal the
layout used by Tinbergen.
Tinbergen, 1951. The Study of Instinct . Oxford University Press,
1974. Curious Naturalists, Penguin Education,Middlesex.
you think of a criticism of this experiment?
the use of pine oil as the olfactory cue unambiguously rule out the
possibility that wasps use smell as well as visual cues to locate their
nest? Hint: Do the pine cones give off an odour?
it have been better to use some other type of odour?
you think of a way to test whether the wasp uses the geometric
configuration of cones rather than cones per se as
conducted a further experiment to see if wasps use scent to navigate.
wasp was trained to use pine cones and scented
plates (plates drenched in pine oil) as landmarks to its nest
task is to lay out each element in the
interactive test area in an arrangement that could be used
to test if wasps use scent or vision to locate their nest
can move elements in the test area by clicking and dragging them
with your mouse
click the wasp to see where it alights
Test Area: Arrange moveable elements to test if
wasps use scent or visual cues to locate nest area