Zeil Group - Ecological neuroscience

We are interested in insect navigation and the sensory, neural and behavioural adaptations that underpin navigational competence in insects. We focus in particular on the role of vision and the navigational information content of different habitats.

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Selected publications


Schulte P, Zeil J, Stürzl W (2019) An Insect-Inspired Model for Acquiring Views for Homing. Biological Cybernetics (in press)



  • Ribi W, Zeil J (2018) Diversity and common themes in the organization of insect ocelli. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 204: 505-517
  • Jayatilaka P, Murray T, Narendra A, Zeil J (2018) The choreography of learning walks in the Australian jack jumper ant Myrmecia croslandi. Journal of Experimental Biology 221: jeb185306.
  • Collett TS, Zeil J (2018) Insect learning flights and walks. Current Biology 28:R984-R988.
  • Zeil J (2018) Orientation, Navigation, and Searching. Pethybridge H (ed) Encyclopedia of Ecology, Second Edition, Elsevier (in press).
  • Zeil J, Hemmi JM (2018) Crabs and their visual world. Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, Second Edition. Elsevier (in press).
  • Zahedi MS, Zeil J (2018) Fractal dimension and the navigational information provided by natural scenes. PLoS ONE 13(5):e0196227.


  • Ogawa Y, Ribi W, Zeil J, Hemmi JM (2017) Regional differences in the preferred e-vector orientation of honeybee ocellar photoreceptors. Journal of Experimental Biology 220: 1701-1708.
  • Ramirez-Esquivel F, Fischer N, Zeil J, Narendra A (2017) The sensory arrays of the ant, Temnothorax rugatulus. Arthopod Structure & Development 46: 552-563.
  • Ribi W, Zeil J (2017) Three-dimensional visualization of ocellar interneurons of the Orchid bee Euglossa imperialis using micro X-ray Computed Tomography. Journal of Comparative Neurology 525:3581–3595.
  • Murray T, Zeil J, Magrath RD (2017) An avian wing whistle acts as an alarm by honestly signalling flight performance. Current Biology 27: 3520–3525.
  • Murray T, Zeil J (2017) Quantifying navigational information: The catchment volumes of panoramic snapshots in outdoor scenes. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0187226.
  • Schwarz S, Mangan M, Zeil J, Webb B, Wystrach A (2017) How ants use vision when homing backward. Current Biology 27: 401–407.


  • Narendra A, Greiner B, Ribi AW, Zeil J (2016) Light and dark adaptation mechanisms in the compound eyes of Myrmecia ants that occupy discrete temporal niches. Journal of Experimental Biology 219: 2435–2442.
  • Stürzl W, Zeil J, Boeddeker N, Hemmi JM (2016) How wasps acquire and use views for homing. Current Biology  26, 470–482.
  • Raderschall CA, Narendra A, Zeil J (2016) Head roll stabilisation in the nocturnal bull ant Myrmecia pyriformis: Implications for visual navigation. Journal of Experimental Biology  219: 1449-1457.


  • White T, Zeil J, Kemp D (2015) Signal design and courtship presentation coincide for highly biased delivery of an iridescent butterfly mating signal. Evolution 69(1): 14-25.
  • Ogawa Y, Falkowski M, Narendra A, Zeil J, Hemmi JM (2015) Three spectrally distinct photoreceptors in diurnal and nocturnal Australian ants. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282: 20150673
  • Stürzl W, Mair E, Grixa I, Narendra A, Zeil J (2015) Three-dimensional models of natural environments and the mapping of navigational information. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 201: 563-584.
  • Ribi WA, Zeil J (2015) The visual system of the Australian 'Redeye' Cicada (Psaltoda moerens). Arthropod Structure and Development 44: 574-586


  • Jayatilaka P, Raderschall CA, Narendra A, Zeil J (2014) Individual foraging patterns of the jack jumper antMyrmecia croslandi (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 19: 75-83.
  • Alkaladi A, Zeil J (2014) The Functional Anatomy of the Fiddler Crab Compound Eye (Uca vomeris: Ocypodidae, Brachyura, Decapoda). Journal of Comparative Neurology 522: 1264–1283.
  • Zeil J, Narendra A, Stürzl W (2014) Looking and Homing: How displaced ants decide where to go. Philosophical Transactions B 20130034. 
  • Zeil J, Hemmi JM (2014) Path Integration, Vision and Decision-making in Fiddler Crabs. In: Derby CD, Thiel M (eds) Crustacean Nervous Systems and their Control of Behavior. Vol 3 of The Natural History of Crustaceans (ten-volume series, editor-in-chief, M. Thiel). Oxford Univ. Press, New York, pp 484-508
  • Zeil J, Ribi W, Narendra A (2014) Polarisation vision in ants, bees and wasps. In: Polarized Light and Polarization Vision in Animal Sciences. Gábor Horváth (Editor). Springer Verlag, Heidelberg, New York. pp. 41-60.
  • Samet N, Zeil J, Mair E, Boeddeker N, Stürzl W (2014) Ground-nesting insects could use visual tracking for monitoring nest position during learning flights.In: From Animals to Animats 13. del Pobil AP, Chinellato E, Martínez-Martín E, Hallam J, Cervera E, Morales A  (eds). Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence 8575: 108-120. 
  • Ramirez-Esquivel F, Narendra A, Zeil J (2014) The antennal sensory array of the nocturnal bull ant Myrmecia pyriformis. Arthropod Structure & Development 43 (6): 543–558 DOI: 10.1016/j.asd.2014.07.004
  • Cheung A, Collett M, Collett TS, Dewar A, Dyer FC, Graham P, Mangan M, Narendra A, Philippides A, Stürzl W, Webb B, Wystrach A, Zeil J (2014). Still no convincing evidence for cognitive map use by honeybees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA doi/10.1073/pnas.1413581111.
  • Zeil J (2014) Nachruf auf Dezsö Varjú. Zoologie 2014, Mitteilungen der Deutschen Zoologischen Gesellschaft, 71-76 (Obituary in German).


  • Alkaladi A, How M, Zeil J (2013) Systematic variations in microvilli banding patterns along fiddler crab rhabdoms. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 199: 99-113.
  • Violett S, Zeil J (2013) Feed-forward and visual feed-back control of head roll orientation in wasps (Polistes humilis, Vespidae, Hymenoptera). Journal of Experimental Biology 216, 1280-1291.
  • Narendra A, Gourmaud S, Zeil J (2013) Mapping the navigational knowledge of individually foraging ants, Myrmecia croslandiProceedings of the Royal Society of London B 280: 20130683.
  • Reid SF, Narendra A, Taylor RW, Zeil J (2013) Foraging ecology of the night-active bull ant Myrmecia pyriformisAustralian Journal of Zoology 61: 170-177.


  • Zeil J (2012) Visual Homing – An Insect Perspective. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 22:285–293.


  • Narendra A, Reid SF, Greiner B, Peters RA, Hemmi JM, Ribi W, Zeil J (2011) Caste-specific visual adaptations to distinct daily activity schedules in Australian Myrmecia ants. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 278: 1141-1149.
  • Schwarz S, Narendra A, Zeil J (2011) The properties of the visual system in the Australian desert antMelophorus bagoti. Arthropod Structure & Development 40: 128-134.
  • Reid SF, Narendra A, Hemmi JM, Zeil J (2011) Polarised skylight and the landmark panorama provide night active bull ants with compass information during route following. Journal of Experimental Biology 214: 363-370
  • Smolka J, Zeil J, Hemmi JM (2011) Natural visual cues eliciting predator avoidance in fiddler crabs.Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 278: 3584-3592.
  • Jayatilaka P, Narendra A, Reid SF, Cooper P, Zeil J (2011) Different effects of temperature on the foraging activity schedules in sympatric Myrmecia ants. Journal of Experimental Biology 214: 2730-2738
  • Ribi W, Warrant E, Zeil J (2011) The organization of honeybee ocelli: Regional specializations and rhabdom arrangements. Arthropod Structure & Development 40: 509-520.

All publications

Blurry-eyed beachcombers beat birds

Story | Friday 15 April 2011
A study from The Australian National University has revealed for the first time how an animal sees and responds to predatory attacks in its natural environment.
Recorded EE Seminar - Jesse Wallace

E&E PhD Exit Seminar: Unravelling the mystery of migratory behaviour in the Bogong moth Agrotis infusa using genomics and novel automated monitoring techniques

Event | Fri 25 February 2022
An exceptionally impressive example of animal navigation is presented by the Bogong moth Agrotis infusa, that migrates over 1000 km from widely distributed winter breeding grounds to a relatively confined summer range in the Australian Alps, consistently arriving to the same sites as its predecessors
Recorded EE Webinar - Zoltan Kocsi

E&E PhD Exit Seminar: Using reconstructed visual reality in insect navigation research

Event | Fri 14 May 2021
Visual insect navigation is an active research topic. Insects have low resolution eyes and a tiny brain, yet they continuously solve very complex navigational problems; an ability that underpins fundamental biological processes such as pollination and parental care.