From maze to maps
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The assessment of spatial navigation in wild animals was challenging before recent advances in Geotechnologies. From the experimental studies in mazes to the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Geographic Information System (GIS) capabilities, many new perspectives on how wild animals move through their environment have emerged. To date, it is widely accepted that nonhuman animals efficiently travel their home range to locate resources according to the environmental pressures they face. This dissertation investigated the patterns of navigation in two mammals with high levels of cognition. The bearded capuchin monkeys live in the Brazilian savanna, in northeastern Brazil, and the African elephants live in the African savanna, in northeastern South Africa. The bearded capuchins were followed by researchers on foot and tracked with a GPS hand-held device for 200 days, while the African elephants were fitted with GPS-enabled collars that recorded coordinates for 600 days. The GIS-based method used to investigate the patterns of navigation across taxa was adjusted only to accommodate the distance animals move, the types of resources they use, and the extent of their natural habitat. The hypotheses tested were as follows: Both species living in a savanna landscape use a sequence of landmarks to navigate, a mechanism consistent with the use of route-based network. Alternatively, the visual access to large parts of their home range would allow the animals to use new paths, decreasing the travel distance toward resources, consistent with cognitive maps. While bearded Capuchin monkeys’ patterns of navigation support the hypothesis of the route network, the analysis of African elephant movement suggest they combine both systems: the route network in unfamiliar areas, and a system analogous to cognitive maps in familiar areas.