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Title: Spatial cognition in three-dimensional environments
Author: Davis, Victoria
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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Animals must navigate between different locations if they are to gather enough resources to survive. The natural world is three-dimensional; however, recent findings from studies of three-dimensional spatial cognition indicate that surface-bound animals remember information derived from the vertical dimension with lower accuracy than information from the horizontal dimensions. In contrast, non-surface-bound swimming and flying animals have been shown either to remember both with similar accuracy, or in some cases, remember vertical information more accurately than horizontal information. This has prompted questions about (i) the factors influencing spatial cognition in animals with different movement ecologies and (ii) what cues non-surface-bound animals use for navigation in three dimensions. In this thesis I explore these questions, principally through behavioural observations of freely-swimming fish in the laboratory. My findings reveal that factors influencing spatial cognition include (a) a difference in cues available in the vertical and horizontal dimensions, (b) asymmetry in the energetic costs of vertical versus horizontal travel and (c) animals' ecological niches. The influence of movement ecology on spatial cognition is complex: in spite of moving principally in the horizontal dimensions, benthic fish preferentially use vertical cues when information derived from the vertical and horizontal dimensions conflict. Hydrostatic pressure varies linearly with depth and represents a stable and reliable cue in an often-variable environment, thus fishes' sense of pressure could explain their vertical preference. Finally, in the absence of information about pressure and over small distances, fish may use horizontally- and vertically-arranged visual landmarks as approximate guides rather than indicators of the exact position of a location. Taken together my results provide new insight into the mechanisms underlying fishes' navigation in three dimensions and shed some light on how evolutionary history and day-to-day movement contributes to spatial cognition.
Supervisor: Burt de Perera, Theresa Sponsor: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council ; University of Oxford
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available