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A New Experiment To Verify the Spatial Range of Pigeons' Olfactory Map

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A series of tests with homing pigeons was carried out to verify the spatial range of their olfactory map. In each test, a group of experimental birds, which had been prevented from smelling ambient odours during the passive displacement, was compared to a group of controls which always had free access to olfactory information. Our results show that the range of unfamiliar area where pigeons are able to navigate on the basis of local cues is rather limited (less than 120 km from the home loft). Homeward orientation, however, normally occurs beyond the limits of the olfactory map as the birds are able to use odorous cues perceived during the initial part of the outward journey. Our results are in agreement with the "mosaic" hypothesis of pigeons' olfactory navigation.

Affiliations: 1: Dipartimento di Scienze del Comportamento Animale e dell'Uomo, University of Pisa, Via Volta 6, I-56126 Pisa, Italy; 2: Centro di Studio per la Faunistica ed Ecologia Tropicali del CNR, Via Romana 17, I-50125 Firenze, Italy

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