Anna Gagliardo earned a degree in Biology and a PhD in Animal Behaviour at the University of Pisa (Italy) studying the role of olfaction in pigeon navigation. She is currently researcher at the Biology Department (University of Pisa), where she studies the mechanisms underlying birds’ navigation, with a particular interest on the role of olfaction in avian navigation. Her research interest also focuses on the neural basis of pigeon navigation and the cognitive processes underlying spatial behaviours in birds. Abstract: Forty years ago Papi and colleagues observed that anosmic pigeons failed to find their way home when released from unfamiliar locations. They explained the dramatic impact on homing by developing the olfactory navigation hypothesis. Pigeons at the home loft learn to associate different odour profiles with the wind direction they arrive from. Once at a release site, they determine the direction of displacement on the basis of the odours perceived locally, and based on that information, compute a homeward bearing. Experimental evidence pointed out that the olfactory map becomes redundant within a familiar area, where visual cues constitute an alternative source of information allowing navigation in olfactory deprived pigeons. Some older research hinted at an important role of olfactory cues for the navigation of nesting swifts and starlings, that displayed homing impairments when made anosmic. More recently, new satellite technologies allowed us to track wild birds subjected to olfactory manipulation after displacement from their breeding site or from their migratory route. Tracking experiments in wild species provided evidence consistent with olfactory navigation and visual landmark-based navigation in unfamiliar and familiar areas, respectively. The talk will be livestreamed from the ICTP website (ictp.it/livestream). Light refreshments will be served after the event.
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