Cognitive map-based navigation in wild bats revealed by a new high-throughput tracking system

Sivan Toledo*, David Shohami*, Ingo Schiffner, Emmanuel Lourie, Yotam Orchan, Yoav Bartan, Ran Nathan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)188-193
Number of pages6
Issue number6500
StatePublished - 10 Jul 2020

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