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 New Model of T Cell Activation
27.05.2016 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Fungi – a promising source of chemical diversity
27.05.2016 | Leibniz-Institut für Naturstoff-Forschung und Infektionsbiologie - Hans-Knöll-Institut (HKI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Worldwide Success of Tyrolean Wastewater Treatment Technology

A biological and energy-efficient process, developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck, converts nitrogen compounds in wastewater treatment facilities into harmless atmospheric nitrogen gas. This innovative technology is now being refined and marketed jointly with the United States’ DC Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water). The largest DEMON®-system in a wastewater treatment plant is currently being built in Washington, DC.

The DEMON®-system was developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck 11 years ago. Today this successful technology has been implemented in about 70...

Im Focus: Computational high-throughput screening finds hard magnets containing less rare earth elements

Permanent magnets are very important for technologies of the future like electromobility and renewable energy, and rare earth elements (REE) are necessary for their manufacture. The Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, Germany, has now succeeded in identifying promising approaches and materials for new permanent magnets through use of an in-house simulation process based on high-throughput screening (HTS). The team was able to improve magnetic properties this way and at the same time replaced REE with elements that are less expensive and readily available. The results were published in the online technical journal “Scientific Reports”.

The starting point for IWM researchers Wolfgang Körner, Georg Krugel, and Christian Elsässer was a neodymium-iron-nitrogen compound based on a type of...

Im Focus: Atomic precision: technologies for the next-but-one generation of microchips

In the Beyond EUV project, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing key technologies for the manufacture of a new generation of microchips using EUV radiation at a wavelength of 6.7 nm. The resulting structures are barely thicker than single atoms, and they make it possible to produce extremely integrated circuits for such items as wearables or mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.

In 1965 Gordon Moore formulated the law that came to be named after him, which states that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every one to two...

Im Focus: Researchers demonstrate size quantization of Dirac fermions in graphene

Characterization of high-quality material reveals important details relevant to next generation nanoelectronic devices

Quantum mechanics is the field of physics governing the behavior of things on atomic scales, where things work very differently from our everyday world.

Im Focus: Graphene: A quantum of current

When current comes in discrete packages: Viennese scientists unravel the quantum properties of the carbon material graphene

In 2010 the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for the discovery of the exceptional material graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Networking 4.0: International Laser Technology Congress AKL’16 Shows New Ways of Cooperations

24.05.2016 | Event News

Challenges of rural labor markets

20.05.2016 | Event News

International expert meeting “Health Business Connect” in France

19.05.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

3-D model reveals how invisible waves move materials within aquatic ecosystems

30.05.2016 | Materials Sciences

Spin glass physics with trapped ions

30.05.2016 | Materials Sciences

Optatec 2016: Robust glass optical elements for LED lighting

30.05.2016 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>