Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hedges and edges help pigeons learn their way around

22.01.2014
A study has found that homing pigeons' ability to remember routes depends on the complexity of the landscape below, with hedges and boundaries between urban and rural areas providing ideal landmarks for navigation

A study has found that homing pigeons' ability to remember routes depends on the complexity of the landscape below, with hedges and boundaries between urban and rural areas providing ideal landmarks for navigation.


These are homing pigeons in flight, equipped with GPS trackers. The study found that homing pigeons' ability to remember routes depends on the complexity of the landscape below

Credit: Zsuzsa Ákos

Researchers from Oxford University, the Zoological Society of London and Uppsala University, Sweden released 31 pigeons from four sites around Oxford for an average of 20 flights each. The study, published in Biology Letters this week, found that pigeons were better able to memorise flight paths when the landscape below was of a certain visual complexity, such as rural areas with hedges or copses.

'We discovered that pigeons' ability to memorise routes is highly influenced by the visual properties of the landscape in a 250 metre radius below them,' said lead author Dr Richard Mann of Uppsala University Sweden, formerly of Oxford University where he conducted the study. 'Looking at how quickly they memorise different routes, we see that that visual landmarks play a key role. Pigeons have a harder time remembering routes when the landscape is too bland like a field or too busy like a forest or dense urban area. The sweet spot is somewhere in between; relatively open areas with hedges, trees or buildings dotted about. Boundaries between rural and urban areas are also good.'

Understanding how pigeons learn to find their way is important because they are able to navigate exceptionally well despite having small brains. Whatever method they use to remember routes must therefore make highly efficient use of their limited mental processing power.

'There may be certain rules that free-flying birds use to structure information that enable them to map the environment using their limited brain power,' said co-author Tim Guilford, Professor of Animal Behaviour at Oxford University's Department of Zoology. 'Fundamentally understanding how they do this will tell us more about their abilities and limitations, and could reveal methods that robots with limited processing power might use to navigate.'

Knowing the landscape features that pigeons use to navigate could also help researchers to predict the flight patterns of any birds that are diurnal; active during the day. Identifying the likely flight paths of birds could be of use to conservationists, birdwatchers and town planners.

'Homing pigeons provide a reliable model for studying navigation and there's no reason to believe that other diurnal birds won't use similar methods,' said Professor Guilford. 'We mainly use pigeons for studies like this because we can be confident that they will bring back the GPS devices with the data. With wild birds, there is a real risk that we won't get the equipment and data back, but fundamentally we expect them to use similar navigational methods.'

The study was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, European Research Council, the Royal Society and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Oxford University News | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ox.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How to become a T follicular helper cell
31.07.2015 | La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology

nachricht Heating and cooling with light leads to ultrafast DNA diagnostics
31.07.2015 | University of California - Berkeley

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum Matter Stuck in Unrest

Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.

What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...

Im Focus: On the crest of the wave: Electronics on a time scale shorter than a cycle of light

Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.

The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...

Im Focus: Superfast fluorescence sets new speed record

Plasmonic device has speed and efficiency to serve optical computers

Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.

Im Focus: Unlocking the rice immune system

Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight

A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...

Im Focus: Smarter window materials can control light and energy

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.

By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Euro Bio-inspired - International Conference and Exhibition on Bio-inspired Materials

23.07.2015 | Event News

Clash of Realities – International Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

10.07.2015 | Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine in Leipzig: Last chance to submit abstracts until 2 July

25.06.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tool making and additive technology exhibition: Fraunhofer IPT at Formnext

31.07.2015 | Trade Fair News

First Siemens-built Thameslink train arrives in London

31.07.2015 | Transportation and Logistics

California 'rain debt' equal to average full year of precipitation

31.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>