Spatial memory and orientation strategies in the elasmobranch Potamotrygon motoro

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2005 Aug;191(8):695-706. doi: 10.1007/s00359-005-0625-9. Epub 2005 May 14.


We investigated whether juvenile freshwater stingrays (Potamotrygon motoro) can solve spatial tasks by constructing a cognitive map of their environment. Two experimental conditions were run: allocentric and ego-allocentric. Rays were trained to locate food within a four-arm maze placed in a room with visual spatial cues. The feeding location (goal) within the maze (room) remained constant while the starting position varied for the allocentrically but not for the ego-allocentrically trained group. After training, all rays solved the experimental tasks; however, different orientation strategies were used within and between groups. Allocentrically trained rays reached the goal via novel routes starting from unfamiliar locations, while ego-allocentrically trained rays primarily solved the task on the basis of an egocentric turn response. Our data suggest that P. motoro orients by constructing a visual cognitive map of its environment, but also uses egocentric and/or other orientation strategies alone or in combination for spatial orientation, a choice which may be governed by the complexity of the problem. We conclude that spatial memory functions are a general feature of the vertebrate brain.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Skates, Fish / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*