Chimps use geometric mental map to navigate jungle

March 13th, 2009 - 1:31 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Mar 13 (ANI): Chimpanzees maintain a geometric mental map of their home range, moving from point to point in nearly straight lines, suggests new research.

“The kind of striking thing when you are with the chimpanzees in the forest is that we use a compass or GPS, but obviously these guys know where they are going,” New Scientist quoted Christophe Boesch, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, as saying.

Using GPS, Boesch and colleague Emmanuelle Normand shadowed the movements of 15 chimpanzees for 217 days in Cote d”Ivoire’’s Tai National Park.

Every morning, boffins woke before a chimpanzee, and then tailed the animal until it went to sleep at day’’s end often in a different nest. Researchers recorded their GPS position once a minute.

“We were able to do this study now because of the new GPS technology that works perfectly in the tropical forest. That was not the case five years ago,” Boesch added.

After the analyses, the experts found good evidence that the animals chose their routes using a mental map built around geometric coordinates, as opposed to a navigation style based on landmarks for well-travelled routes.

This suggests the chimpanzees do not rely exclusively on landmarks such as specific trees and streams to navigate. These markers could come in handy once a chimp nears its destination.

The study has been published in the journal Animal Behaviour. (ANI)

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