As far as I know, humans are the only animals that use visual references to track prey that is not immediately visible to them.

Do any other animals do this?

I'm not referring to stalking prey that the predator already has in sight, like many big cats do, and not tracking prey, that is out of sight, by scent or other means, before switching to visual before the final attack.

Are there any other animals that primarily use visual information, such as tracks, shed fur, broken foliage, disturbed earth, etc., to follow or approach a prey animal that they can't already see?


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This is a really interesting question. Based on what I'm reading online the answer is no, not as far as we know. Bears, mountain lions, and other species have been noted to follow tracks but this is commonly thought to be due to following the smell an animal leaves behind, not the visual cue itself. This similar question on Quora has a discussion of this phenomenon.

As is pointed out in that discussion, the best candidate for this would likely be birds, particularly corvids. This article discusses a study in which ravens could not only tell when someone was looking at them, but could remember areas in which they'd previously been observed (i.e., they can tell when someone is 'spying' on them). This is a bit different than what you're asking here, but you can imagine that an animal that was capable of this level of cognition might also be able to connect seeing footprints --> find human if they were incentivized to do so (possibly by the potential to gain food or other resources). However, it doesn't look like that has been specifically studied.

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    $\begingroup$ -1. Please avoid citing Quora as a source -- Quora answers are rarely cited, not peer reviewed, and often FALSE. It's really a low quality site. We try to hold higher standards here on Bio.SE by requesting that all answers provide reputable support. (For the record, MentlaFloss is not really a whole lot better than Quora in terms of quality). These types of sources are best fit for sites like reddit. Here, please elevate your citation game as we are striving to compile expert answers to questions for biology researchers, academics, and students. see our site tour. $\endgroup$ Jan 5, 2022 at 5:27
  • $\begingroup$ noted. I included this one only because the primary response to the question in Quora was knowledgeable and answered by an Ms in a relevant field. But I will avoid this in the future. $\endgroup$ Jan 5, 2022 at 16:53

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