Asymmetry of different brain structures in homing pigeons with and without navigational experience.
Recent findings indicate a different role of the left and right hippocampal formation (RHF) in homing pigeon navigational map learning. However, it remains uncertain whether the left or the RHF may play a more important role in navigation based on familiar landmarks. In the present study, we attempted to answer this question by experimentally releasing control and left and right hippocampal ablated pigeons from familiar training sites under anosmia, to render their navigational map dysfunctional, and after a phase-shift of the light-dark cycle, to place into conflict a pilotage-like landmark navigational strategy and a site-specific compass orientation landmark navigational strategy. Both left and right hippocampal ablated birds succeeded in learning to navigate by familiar landmarks, and both preferentially relied on sun-compass based, site-specific compass orientation to home. Like bilateral hippocampal lesioned birds, and in contrast to intact controls, neither ablation group adopted a pilotage-like strategy. We conclude that both the left and RHF are necessary if pilotage-like, familiar landmark navigation is to be learned or preferentially used for navigation.