How animals navigate over large-scale environments ?

Lee Harten, Amitay Katz1, Aya Goldshtein, Michal Handel, Yossi Yovel. The ontogeny of a mammalian cognitive map in the real world
SCIENCE 10 JUL 2020 : 194-197

How animals navigate over large-scale environments remains a riddle. Specifically, it is debated whether animals have cognitive maps. The hallmark of map-based navigation is the ability to perform shortcuts, i.e., to move in direct but novel routes. When tracking an animal in the wild, it is extremely difficult to determine whether a movement is truly novel because the animal’s past movement is unknown. We overcame this difficulty by continuously tracking wild fruit bat pups from their very first flight outdoors and over the first months of their lives. Bats performed truly original shortcuts, supporting the hypothesis that they can perform large-scale map-based navigation. We documented how young pups developed their visual-based map, exemplifying the importance of exploration and demonstrating interindividual differences.”


Sivan Toledo, David Shohami, Ingo Schiffner, Emmanuel Lourie, Yotam Orchan, Yoav Bartan, Ran Nathan. Cognitive map–based navigation in wild bats revealed by a new high-throughput tracking system. SCIENCE10 JUL 2020 : 188-193

“Seven decades of research on the “cognitive map,” the allocentric representation of space, have yielded key neurobiological insights, yet field evidence from free-ranging wild animals is still lacking. Using a system capable of tracking dozens of animals simultaneously at high accuracy and resolution, we assembled a large dataset of 172 foraging Egyptian fruit bats comprising >18 million localizations collected over 3449 bat-nights across 4 years. Detailed track analysis, combined with translocation experiments and exhaustive mapping of fruit trees, revealed that wild bats seldom exhibit random search but instead repeatedly forage in goal-directed, long, and straight flights that include frequent shortcuts. Alternative, non–map-based strategies were ruled out by simulations, time-lag embedding, and other trajectory analyses. Our results are consistent with expectations from cognitive map–like navigation and support previous neurobiological evidence from captive bats.”