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Motor Learning and the Value of Familiar Space

Judging from studies of homing and territorial behavior, many animals value familiar home ranges or territories This article discusses a new proximate explanation for this phenomenon: individuals may learn site-specific serial motor programs that enhance their ability to move rapidly, safely, and efficiently around obstacles and barriers in familiar areas. The literature on motor learning in humans and on hurdle race training in humans and horses yields a number of specific predictions on how animals should behave, if they practice and learn serial motor programs that facilitate high-speed locomotion along complicated routes or pathways. Support for some of the predictions of the motor learning hypothesis is already available in the literature on animal play, exploration, maze learning, and spatial orientation, and other predictions of this hypothesis should be readily testable using small mammals.