Testing Mathematical Models of Animal Navigation (#63)
Pigeons (Columba livia) have been used as a convenient experimental model for animal navigation as they will generally fly home even from unfamiliar locations, albeit with systematic initial orientation biases. One hypothesis for the navigation mechanism is conceptualised as a ‘map’ and compass system. The compass component is relatively well understood, however, our understanding of the ‘map’ component is less developed. Several hypotheses for the map component have been proposed including those based on a literal interpretation of a bicoordinate grid map from which mathematical models have been constructed.
In this talk I will discuss how these models might be compared to real experiments to test our theoretical understandings of navigation mechanisms. Initial results based on real and hypothetical fields question our current assumptions and have implications for the design of future experiments.