The Relative Importance of Global and Local Landmarks in Navigation by Columbian Ground Squirrels (Spermophilus Columbianus)

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Abstract

In order to survive, small burrowing mammals need to remember the locations of escape burrows. Therefore, it is important to know what types of landmarks are used to aid navigation in the wild. The author tested the ability of free-ranging Columbian ground squirrels (Spermophilus columbianus) to locate escape burrows when local (e.g., vegetation pattern, local relief), global (e.g., forest edge, mountain outline), or both types of landmarks were obstructed. Results suggest that squirrels need both local and global landmarks of the environment for successful navigation, and that the upper portion of the horizon is especially important for orientation. Moreover, the lack of information from one type of landmark (local or global) cannot be completely compensated by the other type.

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