Home > Uncategorized > Once more to the map debate

Once more to the map debate

The use of harmonic radar in the last 5+ years has re-opened the debate about whether insects are capable of maintaining a cognitive map of their environment. The latest paper that “proves” (no-less) that bees use a cognitive map comes from Cheeseman et al. Using a brilliant clock-shifting technique they are able to manipulate the celestial compass information that bees might gain from PI or associate with recognized places. The authors argue that the alternative hypothesis (to a metric cognitive map) is that insects associate sun-compass referenced vectors with landmarks. Because the homing of bees in familiar environments is not influenced by clock shifting the authors argue that sun-compass referenced vectors can’t be associated with places and therefore bees must have a cognitive map. Unfortunately, this work totally ignores the many ways that animals can use visual information for navigation and seems unaware of the information that is available in natural scenes, even when they appear featureless.

James F. Cheeseman, Craig D. Millar, Uwe Greggers, Konstantin Lehmann, Matthew D. M. Pawley, Charles R. Gallistel, Guy R. Warman, and Randolf Menzel (2014) Way-finding in displaced clock-shifted bees proves bees use a cognitive map. PNAS, doi:10.1073/pnas.1408039111

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