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Spatial mapping memory: methods used to determine the existence and type of cognitive maps in arboreal mammals (advance online)

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Rolland,  Eléonore
Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Rolland, E., & Trull, S. (2021). Spatial mapping memory: methods used to determine the existence and type of cognitive maps in arboreal mammals (advance online). Mammal Review. doi:10.1111/mam.12272.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-6AFB-6
Abstract
Researchers have used multiple methods to understand spatial mapping memory used by arboreal mammals for orientation: the change-point test, measures of path tortuosity, field experiments with feeding platforms, nearest-neighbour feeding tree methods, complex calculations of travel route parameters, and theoretical models. This literature review provides details of all of these methods, highlights previous results from spatial mapping memory studies, and discusses perspectives for future studies. Previous studies have shown that various arboreal mammals, mostly in the order Primates, can memorise spatial environments using a cognitive map. Two types of maps are characterised: the topological map, based on landmarks and reused routes, and the Euclidean map, including the ability to create shortcuts by measuring distances and distinguishing between directions. Most of the studies showed that mammals do not travel randomly but, due to the difficulty of determining which spatial map is used, the use of cognitive maps remains hypothetical. When studying spatial mapping memory, data collection and analysis should account for the species? characteristics, such as the home-range size, food preferences, and types of movements. The role of sensory cues (visual, auditory, olfactory) is crucial to understanding spatial orientation. The most relevant way to determine how arboreal mammals orientate themselves in space is by using a mix of methods: random theoretical models, collecting data in a controlled environment, measuring different parameters of travel patterns, and considering the use of sensory cues and environmental factors of the study sites. Research pertaining to spatial mapping memory in arboreal mammals and forest-dwelling mammals is important for understanding cognitive abilities in mammal species, and more studies are needed in mammals of various orders.