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Nature's Navigation

“Some of the most amazing things that we see in the animal world involve navigation.” —Roy Ritzmann

Roy Ritzmann’s research career began with a “dreaded” undergraduate course: invertebrate biology. Through that class, though, he found a lab opening, which, in turn, led him to learn from Nobel Prize winners and other experts in the field. From that point on, he was hooked.

Ever since, he’s worked to understand more about how even these seemingly simple creaturestraverse complex paths.

One surprising answer? GPS.

The biology professor’s team found that, like humans and other mammals, cockroaches appear to have a sophisticated navigation system in their brains that helps steer them through new surroundings.

The finding likely represents convergent evolution—the idea that distinct animals developed similar systems to manage the same problems. Ritzmann hopes to discover more about the cockroaches’ system to expand our understanding of how all animals navigate their surroundings.