OPEN eLife | 3 Aug 2016
D Vanderelst, J Steckel, A Boen, H Peremans and MW Holderied
Echolocating bats have excellent spatial memory and are able to navigate to salient locations using bio-sonar. Navigating and route-following require animals to recognize places. Currently, it is mostly unknown how bats recognize places using echolocation. In this paper, we propose template based place recognition might underlie sonar-based navigation in bats. Under this hypothesis, bats recognize places by remembering their echo signature - rather than their 3D layout. Using a large body of ensonification data collected in three different habitats, we test the viability of this hypothesis assessing two critical properties of the proposed echo signatures: (1) they can be uniquely classified and (2) they vary continuously across space. Based on the results presented, we conclude that the proposed echo signatures satisfy both criteria. We discuss how these two properties of the echo signatures can support navigation and building a cognitive map.
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