Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 191, Issue 8, pp 695–706 | Cite as

Spatial memory and orientation strategies in the elasmobranch Potamotrygon motoro

  • Vera Schluessel
  • Horst Bleckmann
Original Paper


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.


Stingray Allocentric Egocentric Cognitive map Spatial Orientation 



We would like to thank M. Hofmann, J. Mogdans and M. Barker for valuable comments on the manuscript and Slava Braun for animal caretaking, maintenance and repairs. We are specifically grateful to Mr. Wicker from the Frankfurt Zoo for supplying twelve of the animals used during this study, providing animal food and for giving advice on animal caretaking and maintenance. The research reported herein was performed under the guidelines established by the current German animal protection law.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of ZoologyRheinische Friedrich-Wilhelm-University BonnBonnGermany
  2. 2.Department of Anatomy and Developmental BiologyThe University of Queensland, School of Biomedical SciencesBrisbaneAustralia

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