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Abstract

Bats have a well-developed spatial memory, which enables them to navigate even when the conditions are extremely unfavourable for orientation. However, if they were to adhere too strictly to a flight path planned from memory and independent of exteroceptive control, they would be in danger of colliding with unexpected obstacles. In the experiments described here, Phyllostomus discolor that had familiarized themselves with an octagonal flight arena developed a clear preference for certain resting sites and were able to fly to these sites without recourse to external orientational cues. Proximal and distal cues were ruled out separately, by rotating the direction in which the bats started out within the arena or by rotating the entire arena in the room. Furthermore, by marking the preferred site with a visible identifier it was shown that even when additional aids to orientation are available, the bats do not make use of them. On the other hand, all the bats tested responded immediately to a reduction of the landing area, demonstrating that they are capable of incorporating exteroceptive information into the orientation process in certain circumstances.