There and back again - a zebra's tale

Bartlam-Brooks, H and Wilshin, S and Hubel, T and Hailes, S and Bennitt, E and Wilson, A M (2020) There and back again - a zebra's tale. The Journal of Experimental Biology. jeb.232140. ISSN 1477-9145

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Animals need to navigate between resources such as water, food and shelter and how they achieve this is likely to vary with species. Here, using high accuracy GPS data, we study repeated journeys made by wild zebra (Equus quagga) through a naturally vegetated environment to explore whether they consistently follow the same route through the area or whether they use a range of routes to reach their goal. We use a model to distinguish and quantify these two possibilities and show that our observations are consistent with the use of multiple routes. Our model performs better than assuming uniform angular distribution of trajectories. The typical separation of the routes was found to be small (1.96 m), while the scale at which neighboring trajectories are informative to direction of travel was found to be large (with a confidence interval of (1.19, 26.4) m). Our observations are consistent with the hypothesis that zebra are able to navigate without having to return to previously used routes, instead using numerous different routes of similar trajectories.

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