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A subterranean mammal uses the magnetic compass for path integration

Kimchi, Tali
Terkel, Joseph
Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2004, vol. 101, no. 4, p. 1105-1109
Abstract Path integration allows animals to navigate without landmarks by continuously processing signals generated through locomotion. Insects such as bees and ants have evolved an accurate path integration system, assessing and coding rotations with the help of a general directional reference, the sun azimuth. In mammals, by contrast, this process can take place through purely idiothetic (mainly proprioceptive and vestibular) signals. However, without any stable external reference for measuring direction, path integration is highly affected by cumulative errors and thus has been considered so far as valid only for short-distance navigation. Here we show through two path integration experiments (homing and shortcut finding) that the blind mole rat assesses direction both through internal signals and by estimating its heading in relation to the earth's magnetic field. Further, it is shown that the greater the circumvolution and length of the traveled path, the more the animal relies on the geomagnetic field. This path integration system strongly reduces the accumulation of errors due to inaccuracies in the estimation of rotations and thus allows the mole rat to navigate efficiently in darkness, without the help of any landmark, over both short and long distances.
Keywords AnimalsFemaleMagneticsMaze LearningMole Rats/psychology
PMID: 14732687
Full text
Research group Orientation spatiale
(ISO format)
KIMCHI, Tali, ETIENNE, Ariane S., TERKEL, Joseph. A subterranean mammal uses the magnetic compass for path integration. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2004, vol. 101, n° 4, p. 1105-1109. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0307560100 https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:5374

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Deposited on : 2010-03-09

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