Geometric and feature encoding of discrete landmark arrays in Nucifraga columbiana
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One important step for successful navigation is determining the appropriate direction to travel. This has been referred to as determining one’s heading. Path integration is one mechanism which allows an organism to continuously update the straight-line distance and direction from its initial starting point, allowing the organism to maintain an accurate self-referenced sense of position. However, if the animal becomes disoriented a discrepancy may exist between the self-referenced system and the position indicated by external cues (i.e., an external referent system). When such a discrepancy exists the organism must find a means of recalibrating its self-referenced system such that it corresponds with the external world. Several studies have suggested that landmarks and/or the overall geometric shape of the environment may be used in this process of reorienting (Cheng, 1986). Investigating whether animals can use geometry to reorient involves examining whether geometry can be encoded using the shape of a fully enclosed environment, but few have asked this question using discrete landmarks. If animals can use geometric information to re-orient it would be advantageous to use the geometry not only of continuous surfaces but also from the configuration of discrete objects.