Mathematical analysis of the navigational process in homing pigeons

Schiffner, Ingo, Baumeister, Johann and Wiltschko, Roswitha (2011) Mathematical analysis of the navigational process in homing pigeons. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 291 42-46. doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.09.009

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Author Schiffner, Ingo
Baumeister, Johann
Wiltschko, Roswitha
Title Mathematical analysis of the navigational process in homing pigeons
Journal name Journal of Theoretical Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-5193
Publication date 2011-12-21
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.09.009
Volume 291
Start page 42
End page 46
Total pages 5
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher Academic Press
Collection year 2012
Language eng
Abstract In a novel approach based on the principles of dynamic systems theory, we analyzed the tracks of pigeons recorded with the help of miniaturized GPS recorders. Using the method of time lag embedding, we calculated the largest Lyapunov exponent to determine the system’s predictability and the correlation dimension to estimate the number of factors involved. A low Lyapunov exponent around 0.02, which proved to be rather constant over all calculations, indicates that the navigational process is almost deterministic. In the distribution of the correlation dimension estimates we found three distinctive peaks, at 3.3, 3.7 and 4.2, indicating that avian navigation is a complex multi-dimensional process, involving at least four or five independent factors. Additional factors, as indicated by an increase in the correlation dimension, seem to be included as the pigeons approach their home loft. This increase in correlation dimension and its fractal nature suggest that the various navigational factors can be included as required and weighted independently. Neither the correlation dimension nor the Lyapunov exponent is affected by increasing familiarity of the pigeons with the terrain. This suggests that the navigational strategy is stable with the same process controlling the flight across familiar as well as unfamiliar terrain.
Keyword Navigational process
Homing pigeons
Correlation dimension
Lyapunov exponent
Dynamic systems theory
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Non HERDC
Queensland Brain Institute Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 7 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Fri, 14 Oct 2011, 16:48:43 EST by Ingo Schiffner on behalf of Queensland Brain Institute