Is habitat selection in the wild shaped by individual-level cognitive biases in orientation strategy?

Christine E. Beardsworth, Mark A. Whiteside, Philippa R. Laker, Ran Nathan, Yotam Orchan, Sivan Toledo, Jayden O. van Horik, Joah R. Madden

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Cognitive biases for encoding spatial information (orientation strategies) in relation to self (egocentric) or landmarks (allocentric) differ between species or populations according to the habitats they occupy. Whether biases in orientation strategy determine early habitat selection or if individuals adapt their biases following experience is unknown. We determined orientation strategies of pheasants, Phasianus colchicus, using a dual-strategy maze with an allocentric probe trial, before releasing them (n = 20) into a novel landscape, where we monitored their movement and habitat selection. In general, pheasants selected for woodland over non-woodland habitat, but allocentric-biased individuals exhibited weaker avoidance of non-woodland habitat, where we expected allocentric navigation to be more effective. Sex did not influence selection but was associated with speed and directional persistence in non-woodland habitat. Our results suggest that an individual's habitat selection is associated with inherent cognitive bias in early life, but it is not yet clear what advantages this may offer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-760
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Allocentric
  • cognition
  • egocentric
  • habitat
  • movement ecology
  • navigation
  • orientation strategies
  • spatial memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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