Is habitat selection in the wild shaped by individual-level cognitive biases in orientation strategy?

Christine E. Beardsworth*, Mark A. Whiteside, Philippa R. Laker, Ran Nathan, Yotam Orchan, Sivan Toledo, Jayden O. van Horik, Joah R. Madden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

Abstract

Cognitive biases for encoding spatial information (orientation strategies) in relation to self (egocentric) or landmarks (allocentric) differ between species or populations according to the habitats they occupy. Whether biases in orientation strategy determine early habitat selection or if individuals adapt their biases following experience is unknown. We determined orientation strategies of pheasants, Phasianus colchicus, using a dual-strategy maze with an allocentric probe trial, before releasing them (n = 20) into a novel landscape, where we monitored their movement and habitat selection. In general, pheasants selected for woodland over non-woodland habitat, but allocentric-biased individuals exhibited weaker avoidance of non-woodland habitat, where we expected allocentric navigation to be more effective. Sex did not influence selection but was associated with speed and directional persistence in non-woodland habitat. Our results suggest that an individual's habitat selection is associated with inherent cognitive bias in early life, but it is not yet clear what advantages this may offer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-760
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Volume24
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Keywords

  • Allocentric
  • cognition
  • egocentric
  • habitat
  • movement ecology
  • navigation
  • orientation strategies
  • spatial memory

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