Putting bats on the cognitive map

Whether bats navigate their large home range using a ‘cognitive map’ is debated. Toledo et al. and Harten et al. used GPS trackers to record flight trajectories of Egyptian fruit bats and provide evidence that these animals indeed use cognitive map representations. Toledo et al. tagged 172 bats for a total of 3,449 nights, resulting in 9,218 recorded trajectories. Of these, 397 were previously unrecorded shortcuts between two known locations. Moreover, bats translocated by Toledo et al. to the periphery of their main foraging area returned to their regular foraging area along new, straight trajectories. Various analyses suggested that the bats probably did not rely on other means of navigation such as random search, piloting, beaconing, path integration or following other bats. Harten et al. tagged wild bat pups with trackers before their first outdoor flights for the first few months of their lives. These young bats took shortcuts even in these early flights, suggesting that they develop cognitive maps of their home ranges during initial explorations.


Original articles

  1. Toledo, S. et al. Cognitive map–based navigation in wild bats revealed by a new high-throughput tracking system. Science 369, 188–193 (2020)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Harten, L. et al. The ontogeny of a mammalian cognitive map in the real world. Science 369, 194–197 (2020)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Natasha Bray.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bray, N. Putting bats on the cognitive map. Nat Rev Neurosci 21, 452 (2020).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing