Wild hummingbirds can use the geometry of a flower array
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Animals use cues from their environment to orient in space and to navigate their surroundings. Geometry is a cue whose informational content may originate from the metric properties of a given environment, and its use has been demonstrated in the laboratory in nearly every species of animal tested. However, it is not clear whether geometric information, used by animals typically tested in small, rectangular boxes, is directly relevant to animals in their natural environment. Here we present the first data that confirm the use of geometric cues by a free-living animal in the wild. We trained rufous hummingbirds to visit a rectangular array of four artificial flowers, one of which was rewarded. In some trials a conspicuous landmark cued the reward. Following array translocation and rotation, we presented hummingbirds with three tests. When trained and tested with the landmark, or when trained and tested without it, hummingbirds failed to show geometric learning. However, when trained with a landmark but tested without it, hummingbirds produced the classic geometric response, showing that they had learned the geometric relationships (distance and direction) of several non-reward visual elements of the environment. While it remains that the use of geometry to relocate a reward may be an experimental artefact, it is one cue that is not confined to the laboratory.
Hornsby , M A W , Healy , S D & Hurly , T A 2017 , ' Wild hummingbirds can use the geometry of a flower array ' Behavioural Processes , vol 139 , pp. 33-37 . DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2017.01.019
Copyright © 2017, Elsevier Ltd. This work is made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created, accepted version manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2017.01.019
This research was supported in part by ASAB to SDH, and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant to TAH.
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