London: Rock ants instinctively go left when entering unknown spaces, a new study has found.
Researchers from the University of Bristol, UK, found that Temnothorax albipennis ants were significantly more likely to turn left than right when exploring new nests.
Such left bias was also present when the ants were put in branching mazes, researchers found.
"The ants may be using their left eye to detect predators and their right to navigate. Also, their world is maze-like and consistently turning one way is a very good strategy to search and exit mazes," said PhD student Edmund Hunt who conducted the study.
"Furthermore, as their nest-mates are left-leaning too, there should also be safety in numbers. Consistent turning may also help the ants to monitor nest mates during house hunting. So perhaps leaning left is more shrewd than sinister," Hunt added.
Around ten per cent of people are left-handed and brain lateralisation is widespread in other vertebrates.
There's also increasing evidence for sensory and motor asymmetries in the behaviour of invertebrates, but evidence for lateral biases in ants is relatively limited.
Behavioural lateralisation in invertebrates is an important field of study because it may provide insights into the early origins of lateralisation seen in a diversity of organisms, the researchers said.
The study was published in Biology Letters.