Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Chickadees can help humans get their bearings


How did University of Alberta researchers discover that animals zig when they were only supposed to zag? A little birdie told them.

In studying the spatial memory of wild-caught mountain chickadees, University of Alberta researchers were surprised to discover the birds contradicting prior research that showed how animals navigate. This study is the first to reveal a different pattern. Previously, only animals that had been raised in human-made enclosures had been tested.

The findings are published in the July issue of Biology Letters.

To get their bearings, humans and other animals are often guided by the geometrical shape of their environment. For example, humans have an easy time distinguishing the door located at the ends of a hallway from those located in the middle, but may confuse doors at the two ends, such as when they re-enter a hallway in a hotel. "This has been observed in every species tested, even when landmarks alone could be used, suggesting that animals are predisposed to go by geometry," said co-author Dr. Chris Sturdy, a professor of psychology and member of the Centre for Neuroscience at the University of Alberta.

The wild-caught chickadees differed from all previously tested animals by ignoring angular features of their environment and following landmarks instead. Although able to learn geometry when guiding themselves to food in lab experiments, the birds consistently ignored the concept when a prominent landmark, in this case a blue wall, was present.

"Getting oriented is an important part of solving many spatial navigational problems, such as locating your car in the parking lot at the end of a long day in the office. This discovery points to the fact that our early experiences influence how we solve such problems and could mean that by varying the environments that we encounter early in life, we could broaden and hone our spatial navigation abilities," said Dr. Sturdy and Dr. Marcia Spetch, who supervised the work conducted by graduate students Emily Gray and Laurie Bloomfield.

The findings also suggest the need for more research outside of lab environments, Dr. Sturdy said. "We have to look away from lab species and look at the diversity out there. There could be a lot of other species that have other ways of doing things."

Bev Betkowski | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>