Navigation in the rain forest: experienced based homing in poison frogs (#601)
Animal navigation has become one of the most comparative fields in behavioral biology. However, orientation under natural conditions has been mostly studied in animals moving in open spaces, such as birds and honeybees in flight, ants and amphibians in open field, or sea-turtles in open water. Little is know about how animals find their way in the understory of the rain forest, where many cues, such as distant landmarks are limited.
Poison frogs (Dendrobatidae) are small inhabitants of the Neotropical rain forest understory and they show some of the most complex spatial behaviors among amphibians, such as long distance tadpole transport. We studied the homing behavior of two territorial poison frog species in the field using telemetry. We revealed that males of Ameerega trvittata return to their home territory via a direct path after experimental translocations of up to 800 m. We also found that a small dendrobatid frog Allobates femoralis relies on experience to find the way home from up to 400 m.
Taken together, our results suggest that poison frogs form a spatial map of a large area but the exact landmarks being used remain unknown. We will discuss our finding in the context of the availability of potential orientation cues.