Is There Visual Lateralisation of the Sun Compass in Homing Pigeons?

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Functional lateralisation in the avian visual system can be easily studied by testing monocularly occluded birds. The sun compass is a critical source of navigational information in birds, but studies of visual asymmetry have focussed on cues in a laboratory rather than a natural setting. We investigate functional lateralisation of sun compass use in the visual system of homing pigeons trained to locate food in an outdoor octagonal arena, with a coloured beacon in each sector and a view of the sun. The arena was rotated to introduce a cue conflict, and the experimental groups, a binocular treatment and two monocular treatments, were tested for their directional choice. We found no significant difference in test orientation between the treatments, with all groups showing evidence of both sun compass and beacon use, suggesting no complete functional lateralisation of sun compass use within the visual system. However, reduced directional consistency of binocular vs. monocular birds may reveal a conflict between the two hemispheres in a cue conflict condition. Birds using the right hemisphere were more likely to choose the intermediate sector between the training sector and the shifted training beacon, suggesting a possible asymmetry in favour of the left eye/right hemisphere (LE/RH) when integrating different cues.
Original languageEnglish
Article number740
JournalSymmetry
Volume12
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2020

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