Data for: Asymmetric ommatidia count and behavioural lateralization in the ant Temnothorax albipennis
Workers of the house-hunting ant Temnothorax albipennis rely on visual edge following and landmark recognition to navigate their rocky environment, and they also exhibit a leftward turning bias when exploring unknown nest sites. We used electron microscopy to count the number of ommatidia composing the compound eyes of workers, males and queens, to make an approximate assessment of their relative sampling resolution; and to establish whether there is an asymmetry in the number of ommatidia composing the workers’ eyes, which might provide an observable, mechanistic explanation for the turning bias. We hypothesise that even small asymmetries in relative visual acuity between left and right eyes could be magnified by developmental experience into a symmetry-breaking turning preference that results in the inferior eye pointing toward the wall. Fifty-six workers were examined: 45% had more ommatidia in the right eye, 36% more in the left, and 20% an equal number. A tentative connection between relative ommatidia count for each eye and turning behaviour was identified, with a stronger assessment of behavioural lateralization before imaging and a larger sample suggested for further work. There was a clear sexual dimorphism in ommatidia counts between queens and males.