The role of orientation flights on homing performance in honeybees. (1/295)

Honeybees have long served as a model organism for investigating insect navigation. Bees, like many other nesting animals, primarily use learned visual features of the environment to guide their movement between the nest and foraging sites. Although much is known about the spatial information encoded in memory by experienced bees, the development of large-scale spatial memory in naive bees is not clearly understood. Past studies suggest that learning occurs during orientation flights taken before the start of foraging. We investigated what honeybees learn during their initial experience in a new landscape by examining the homing of bees displaced after a single orientation flight lasting only 5-10 min. Homing ability was assessed using vanishing bearings and homing speed. At release sites with a view of the landmarks immediately surrounding the hive, 'first-flight' bees, tested after their very first orientation flight, had faster homing rates than 'reorienting foragers', which had previous experience in a different site prior to their orientation flight in the test landscape. First-flight bees also had faster homing rates from these sites than did 'resident' bees with full experience of the terrain. At distant sites, resident bees returned to the hive more rapidly than reorienting or first-flight bees; however, in some cases, the reorienting bees were as successful as the resident bees. Vanishing bearings indicated that all three types of bees were oriented homewards when in the vicinity of landmarks near the hive. When bees were released out of sight of these landmarks, hence forcing them to rely on a route memory, the 'first-flight' bees were confused, the 'reorienting' bees chose the homeward direction except at the most distant site and the 'resident' bees were consistently oriented homewards.  (+info)

Calibration of vector navigation in desert ants. (2/295)

Desert ants (Cataglyphis sp.) monitor their position relative to the nest using a form of dead reckoning [1] [2] [3] known as path integration (PI) [4]. They do this with a sun compass and an odometer to update an accumulator that records their current position [1]. Ants can use PI to return to the nest [2] [3]. Here, we report that desert ants, like honeybees [5] and hamsters [6], can also use PI to approach a previously visited food source. To navigate to a goal using only PI information, a forager must recall a previous state of the accumulator specifying the goal, and compare it with the accumulator's current state [4]. The comparison - essentially vector subtraction - gives the direction to the goal. This whole process, which we call vector navigation, was found to be calibrated at recognised sites, such as the nest and a familiar feeder, throughout the life of a forager. If a forager was trained around a one-way circuit in which the result of PI on the return route did not match the result on the outward route, calibration caused the ant's trajectories to be misdirected. We propose a model of vector navigation to suggest how calibration could produce such trajectories.  (+info)

Male dispersal in the noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula): where are the limits? (3/295)

Studying the dispersal behaviour of small, volant, and nocturnal animals such as microchiropterans with direct methods (banding--recapture, telemetry) is a very difficult task. The development of easily scorable and highly variable genetic markers nowadays allows us to study some aspects of dispersal indirectly, using population genetics. Here, we applied these indirect methods to characterize male dispersal behaviour in a European bat species. The eight microsatellite loci analysed were highly variable in all the nursing colonies assessed (h = 0.63-0.93). Contrary to what we found in the mtDNA, an AMOVA and F-statistics showed that the overall European population structure of the noctule bat was very weak, indicating a high male dispersal rate. Nevertheless, the population was not totally panmictic (theta = 0.006, p < 0.001), and neither isolation by distance, nor influence of migration could account for this result. Rather, an analysis of pairwise theta-values showed that the population structure might be explained partly by a geographical barrier to gene flow (the Alps), and partly by the fact that there is some limit to the distance the males can disperse.  (+info)

Tracking clock-shifted homing pigeons from familiar release sites. (4/295)

Clock-shifted homing pigeons were tracked from familiar sites 17.1 km and 23.5 km from the home loft in Pisa, Italy, using an on-board route recorder. At the first release site, north of home, the majority of clock-shifted birds had relatively straight tracks comparable with those of control birds. At the second release site, south of home, the clock-shifted birds deflected in the direction predicted for the degree of clock shift, with many birds travelling some distance in the wrong direction before correcting their course. The possible role of large-scale terrain features in homing pigeon navigation is discussed.  (+info)

A model for photoreceptor-based magnetoreception in birds. (5/295)

A large variety of animals has the ability to sense the geomagnetic field and utilize it as a source of directional (compass) information. It is not known by which biophysical mechanism this magnetoreception is achieved. We investigate the possibility that magnetoreception involves radical-pair processes that are governed by anisotropic hyperfine coupling between (unpaired) electron and nuclear spins. We will show theoretically that fields of geomagnetic field strength and weaker can produce significantly different reaction yields for different alignments of the radical pairs with the magnetic field. As a model for a magnetic sensory organ we propose a system of radical pairs being 1) orientationally ordered in a molecular substrate and 2) exhibiting changes in the reaction yields that affect the visual transduction pathway. We evaluate three-dimensional visual modulation patterns that can arise from the influence of the geomagnetic field on radical-pair systems. The variations of these patterns with orientation and field strength can furnish the magnetic compass ability of birds with the same characteristics as observed in behavioral experiments. We propose that the recently discovered photoreceptor cryptochrome is part of the magnetoreception system and suggest further studies to prove or disprove this hypothesis.  (+info)

The importance of stable schooling: do familiar sticklebacks stick together? (6/295)

Preferences for rejoining shoals composed of familiar individuals have recently been documented in a variety of small, shallow-water fish species. Such preferences are assumed to be adaptive, since familiar groups have improved anti-predator defences and more stable dominance hierarchies. However, the design of these studies may have created conditions that elevate preferences for familiar individuals. Furthermore, in natural habitats, where significant opportunities for inter-shoal transfer may exist, it is unclear whether shoals stay together long enough for such preferences to develop. Here we present the results of a laboratory study examining whether prior familiarity influences the subsequent shoal composition of sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) allowed to re-assort freely in a large arena tank. We show that fish from different familiarity groups associate with familiar conspecifics significantly more than predicted by a model of random assortment, suggesting that even when there is ample opportunity for inter-group transfer, shoal composition can remain stable. We discuss the phenomena that may lead to the formation of familiar groups in natural habitats. In addition, we suggest that familiarity benefits may reduce the relative value of transferring to otherwise more attractive (e.g. larger or more phenotypically matched) groups, and thereby stabilize shoal structure.  (+info)

Two spatial memories for honeybee navigation. (7/295)

Insect navigation is thought to be based on an egocentric reference system which relates vector information derived from path integration to views of landmarks experienced en route and at the goal. Here we show that honeybees also possess an allocentric form of spatial memory which allows localization of multiple places relative to the intended goal, the hive. The egocentric route memory, which is called the specialized route memory (SRM) here, initially dominates navigation when an animal is first trained to a feeding site and then released at an unexpected site and this is why it is the only reference system detected so far in experiments with bees. However, the SRM can be replaced by an allocentric spatial memory called the general landscape memory (GLM). The GLM is directly accessible to the honeybee (and to the experimenter) if no SRM exists, for example, if bees were not trained along a route before testing. Under these conditions bees return to the hive from all directions around the hive at a speed comparable to that of an equally long flight along a trained route. The flexible use of the GLM indicates that bees may store relational information on places, connections between landmarks and the hive and/or views of landmarks from different directions and, thus, the GLM may have a graph structure, at least with respect to one goal, i.e. the hive.  (+info)

Partial experience with the arc of the sun is sufficient for all-day sun compass orientation in homing pigeons, Columba livia. (8/295)

The ability of animals to learn to use the sun for orientation has been explored in numerous species. In birds, there is conflicting evidence about the experience needed for sun compass orientation to develop. The prevailing hypothesis is that birds need entire daytime exposure to the arc of the sun to use the sun as an orientation cue. However, there is also some evidence indicating that, even with limited exposure to the arc of the sun, birds, like insects, can use the sun to orient at any time of day. We re-examine this issue in a study of compass orientation in a cue-controlled arena. Two groups of young homing pigeons received different exposure to the sun. The control group experienced the sun throughout the day; the experimental group experienced only the apparent descent of the sun. After 8 weeks of sun exposure, we trained both groups in the afternoon to find food in a specific compass direction in an outdoor arena that provided a view of the sun but not landmarks. We then tested the pigeons in the morning for their ability to use the morning sun as an orientation cue. The control group and the experimental group, which was exposed to the morning sun for the first time, succeeded in orienting in the training direction during test 1. The orientation of the experimental group was no different from that of the control group, although the experimental first trial directional response latencies were greater than the control latencies. Subsequently, we continued training both groups in the afternoon and then tested the pigeons during the morning under complete cloud cover. Both groups displayed random directional responses under cloud cover, indicating that the observed orientation was based on the visibility of the sun. The data indicate that pigeons with limited exposure to the arc of the sun can, like insects, use the sun for orientation at any time of day.  (+info)