The ability of animals to explore landmarks in their environment is essential to their fitness. Landmarks are widely recognized to play a key role in navigation by providing information in multiple sensory modalities. However, what is a landmark? We propose that animals use a hierarchy of information based upon its utility and salience when an animal is in a given motivational state. Focusing on honeybees, we suggest that foragers choose landmarks based upon their relative uniqueness, conspicuousness, stability, and context. We also propose that it is useful to distinguish between landmarks that provide sensory input that changes (“near”) or does not change (“far”) as the receiver uses these landmarks to navigate. However, we recognize that this distinction occurs on a continuum and is not a clear-cut dichotomy. We review the rich literature on landmarks, focusing on recent studies that have illuminated our understanding of the kinds of information that bees use, how they use it, potential mechanisms, and future research directions.
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