Desert Navigator: The Journey of an Ant (Hardback)
  • Desert Navigator: The Journey of an Ant (Hardback)

Desert Navigator: The Journey of an Ant (Hardback)

Hardback 400 Pages
Published: 04/02/2020
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Winner of the Association of American Publishers PROSE Award for Excellence in Biological and Life Sciences

A world-renowned researcher of animal behavior reveals the extraordinary orienteering skills of desert ants, offering a thrilling account of the sophisticated ways insects function in their natural environments.

Cataglyphis desert ants are agile ultrarunners who can tolerate near-lethal temperatures when they forage in the hot midday sun. But it is their remarkable navigational abilities that make these ants so fascinating to study. Whether in the Sahara or its ecological equivalents in the Namib Desert and Australian Outback, the Cataglyphis navigators can set out foraging across vast expanses of desert terrain in search of prey, and then find the shortest way home. For almost half a century, Rüdiger Wehner and his collaborators have devised elegant experiments to unmask how they do it.

Through a lively and lucid narrative, Desert Navigator offers a firsthand look at the extraordinary navigational skills of these charismatic desert dwellers and the experiments that revealed how they strategize and solve complex problems. Wehner and his team discovered that these insect navigators use visual cues in the sky that humans are unable to see, the Earth’s magnetic field, wind direction, a step counter, and panoramic “snapshots” of landmarks, among other resources. The ants combine all of this information to steer an optimal course. At any given time during their long journey, they know exactly where to go. It is no wonder these nimble and versatile creatures have become models in the study of animal navigation.

Desert Navigator brings to light the marvelous capacity and complexity found in these remarkable insects and shows us how mini brains can solve mega tasks.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674045880
Number of pages: 400
Dimensions: 232 x 191 mm


Rüdiger Wehner’s Desert Navigator is destined to be a classic in entomology and behavioral biology. It is through an extraordinary series of observations and experiments that we have the first effective look into the mind of ants. - Edward O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

Wehner’s research has been highly influential in human spatial cognition, and we are lucky to have this rich and fascinating account. - Steven Pinker, author of How the Mind Works

This book is a masterpiece par excellence! Superb science, eloquently and engagingly written, and beautifully illustrated. - Bert Hölldobler, Foundation Professor of Life Sciences and Regent’s Professor, Arizona State University

This sumptuously produced book is a triumph both of natural history and of science…Understanding how this wonderful eusocial insect can accomplish its apparently miraculous feats of navigation has required imagination, intelligence and decades of disciplined application. Here, in one place, we can at last savor the full glory of this remarkable achievement. - William A. Foster, Nature

[A] grand book…You will end the book as a fan of Cataglyphis. - Alun Anderson, New Scientist

Rarely do scientists write such broad and beautiful syntheses. The quality of the scholarship and the writing found in this book is truly outstanding. Indeed, it is a breathtaking piece of work. - Thomas D. Seeley, Horace White Professor in Biology, Cornell University

This is a marvelous book that no one could have written but Rüdiger Wehner. It is simply excellent. - Alexander Borst, Director, Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried

Beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated…a sumptuous and highly personal account of how [Wehner] and his many collaborators unravelled the navigational ‘toolkit’ of his beloved ‘cataglyphs.’…A scientific tour de force, and a work of exceptional scholarship…Will certainly become a go-to bible for everyone in the field of animal navigation. - Eric Warrant, Quarterly Review of Biology

This title joins what is becoming an illustrious line-up of in-depth books on ants published by Harvard University Press. I praise them unreservedly for the lavish production values they have heaped upon it. Desert Navigator is a myrmecological masterpiece and a fitting milestone in Wehner’s long and successful research career. If you have any interest in ants, insect behavior, or animal navigation you absolutely do not want to skip this astonishing book. - Inquisitive Biologist

Through a lively and lucid narrative, Desert Navigator offers a firsthand look at the extraordinary skills of these charismatic desert dwellers. - Southeastern Naturalist

I cannot find another book where the subject of insect navigation is so elegantly treated. - Rudolf Alexander Steinbrecht, Arthropod Structure & Development

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