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.'
'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!
Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences