Using Pharmacological Manipulation and High-precision Radio Telemetry to Study the Spatial Cognition in Free-ranging Animals.
An animal's ability to perceive and learn about its environment plays a key role in many behavioral processes, including navigation, migration, dispersal and foraging. However, the understanding of the role of cognition in the development of navigation strategies and the mechanisms underlying these strategies is limited by the methodological difficulties involved in monitoring, manipulating the cognition of, and tracking wild animals. This study describes a protocol for addressing the role of cognition in navigation that combines pharmacological manipulation of behavior with high-precision radio telemetry. The approach uses scopolamine, a muscarinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist, to manipulate cognitive spatial abilities. Treated animals are then monitored with high frequency and high spatial resolution via remote triangulation. This protocol was applied within a population of Eastern painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) that has inhabited seasonally ephemeral water sources for ~100 years, moving between far-off sources using precise (± 3.5 m), complex (i.e., non-linear with high tortuosity that traverse multiple habitats), and predictable routes learned before 4 years of age. This study showed that the processes used by these turtles are consistent with spatial memory formation and recall. Together, these results are consistent with a role of spatial cognition in complex navigation and highlight the integration of ecological and pharmacological techniques in the study of cognition and navigation.
Published In/Presented At
Roth, T. C., Krochmal, A. R., Gerwig, W. B., 4th, Rush, S., Simmons, N. T., Sullivan, J. D., & Wachter, K. (2016). Using Pharmacological Manipulation and High-precision Radio Telemetry to Study the Spatial Cognition in Free-ranging Animals. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE, (117), 54790. https://doi.org/10.3791/54790
Medical Education | Medicine and Health Sciences
USF-LVHN SELECT Program, USF-LVHN SELECT Program Students