Spatial navigation in corn snakes
geometric cues, reptiles
Research has shown that a variety of organisms encode the geometry of their environment to re-establish orientation (i.e., reorientation). This has been shown in species ranging from rats to bees, and has been shown to be an automatic process. This automatic process of encoding geometry has been taken as evidence for a geometric module in the brain of these species. However, it is currently not known whether reptiles also use geometry to reorient. This study will investigate the use of geometric cues for reorientation in a corn snake. The snake will be trained to locate a goal in a corner of a rectangular arena. At each corner, a unique landmark will be available. Once the snake has learned to locate the target corner, it will attempt to relocate the corner in the absence of the landmarks. If the snake has encoded the geometry of the arena during training, it should be able to locate the goal, and will make rotational errors (i.e., mistaking the diagonally opposite corner for the correct corner). This rotational error would provide evidence that the snake has encoded the geometry even though it was trained to rely on the landmarks during training. This would provide support for the existence of a geometric module in the snake’s brain, and potentially in the general reptilian brain as well.
Presented on April 23, 2018 at Student Research Day held at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta.
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