These desert ants live in salt pans and are ideal models for navigation research. When they set out in search of food in their flat, bare, hostile environment, they are nevertheless always able to find their way back to their nest on the shortest route possible. They have an internal navigation system. The ants measure the distance they have gone by recording how many steps they have taken -- and they use the sun for directional orientation, taking into account its movement over time via their own internal clock. A team of researchers led by Dr. Matthias Wittlinger developed a tiny treadmill, on which the ants behave just as they do in the wild. "This gives us almost unlimited possibilities to test the mechanisms and neural basis of our model animal's spatial orientation and navigation -- in the laboratory," says Wittlinger. "We can place the ants in a virtual world and incorporate certain changes into it to see how they react."