Bats have superior navigational capabilities, how do they fly dozens of kilometers in a matter of hours for food, and then return to the starting point accurately? Israeli researchers have found that bats have spatial memory capabilities similar to those of humans, and can use markers to create “cognitive maps” of surrounding space and navigate them.
Bats are well known for their ability to use sound waves to distinguish near objects, and how they navigate on a larger geographic scale when they travel to distant foraging have attracted two Israeli teams to study it. One team came from Tel Aviv University and the other was made up of researchers from the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University, and the papers of both teams were published in the new issue of the 9th issue of the American journal Science.
In the Tel Aviv University study, researchers tracked 22 fruit bats and developed a small GPS device to track how they forage in downtown Tel Aviv at different stages, from childhood to adulthood.
The analysis shows that the fruit bats navigate in a similar way to Tel Aviv residents, using landmarkbuildings such as the Azrli Tower in the city to create a visual “cognitive map” of the surrounding space. One strong piece of evidence is that they have a human-like “copying” ability, and when these fruit bats develop to a certain stage, they can use “cognitive maps” in the brain to find routes that have never been taken, closer to their destination.
In a study conducted by the Hebrew University in collaboration with Tel Aviv University, the team tracked wild Egyptian fruit bats foraging in israel’s Hula Valley. The researchers also developed an advanced location tracking system that collected flight data on 172 wild Egyptian fruit bats foraging at night over a four-year period.
The team combined information analysis of fruit tree distribution maps in the relevant areas and found that the bats used advanced spatial memory to build a “cognitive map” based on signs such as fruit trees and navigate it. They rarely randomly look for food, but repeatedly “fly” through target-oriented long-distance “direct” foraging, and frequently “copy the road.” The researchers say the results provide the most comprehensive evidence yet of the existence of “cognitive maps” in the wild brain.