Though some of us are heavily assisted by smart phone apps and delivery, humans don’t need GPS to find food. We know where the fridge is. The grocery store. The drive-thru. And we don’t really need a map to find shelter, in the sense that shelter is easily identifiable in a storm. You might say that our most important navigation skills are innate, at least when we’re within our normal environment. Drop us in another city and we can probably still identify viable overhangs, cafes, and food stalls.
The question is, do these navigational skills vary by species or environment? Or are the tools necessary to forage for food, meet mates, and seek shelter more universal? To test the waters of this question, Israeli researchers built a robot car and taught six fish to navigate successfully toward a target with a food reward. This experiment is one of domain transfer methodology, which is the exploration of whether a species can perform tasks outside its natural environment. Think of all the preparation that went into Vostok and Project Mercury.