Seven decades of research on the "cognitive map,"the allocentric representation of space, have yielded key neurobiological insights, yet field evidence from free-ranging wild animals is still lacking. Using a system capable of tracking dozens of animals simultaneously at high accuracy and resolution, we assembled a large dataset of 172 foraging Egyptian fruit bats comprising >18 million localizations collected over 3449 bat-nights across 4 years. Detailed track analysis, combined with translocation experiments and exhaustive mapping of fruit trees, revealed that wild bats seldom exhibit random search but instead repeatedly forage in goal-directed, long, and straight flights that include frequent shortcuts. Alternative, non-map-based strategies were ruled out by simulations, time-lag embedding, and other trajectory analyses. Our results are consistent with expectations from cognitive map-like navigation and support previous neurobiological evidence from captive bats.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
ATLAS development, maintenance, and studies have been supported by the Minerva Center for Movement Ecology, the Minerva Foundation, and ISF grant ISF-965/15; bat research in the movement ecology lab was supported also by grants from ISF-1316/05, ISF-1259/09, and GIF 1316/15. We also acknowledge support from Adelina and Massimo Della Pergola Chair of Life Sciences to R.N. and the Israel President Scholarship to D.S.
Copyright © 2020 The Authors.