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Science

Chimps Have a Built-In GPS 195

Posted by kdawson
from the please-return-to-the-highlighted-route dept.
destinyland writes "European researchers have discovered that chimpanzees have a built-in mental GPS, keeping 'a geometric mental map of their home range, moving from point to point in nearly straight lines.' Using GPS, two primatologists followed 15 chimpanzees for 217 days, and determined that the apes were 'using a mental map built around geometric coordinates.' They're not just identifying landmarks in their surroundings, and in fact, even when swinging through trees, the chimps planned out their route several trees in advance. Here's the paper in the journal Animal Behavior."
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Chimps Have a Built-In GPS

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  • Pay per Paper (Score:5, Informative)

    by spacefight (577141) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:24PM (#27318883)
    From the 2nd link: "Price: US $ 31.50". Sounds like another slashvertorial. No thanks, chimps.
    • Re:Pay per Paper (Score:4, Insightful)

      by megamerican (1073936) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:29PM (#27319051)

      $31.50 is pretty expensive for a paper which will say that a certain mammal can remember where it has been and can find its way back to that spot, much like most other mammals.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        "$31.50 is pretty expensive for a paper which will say that a certain mammal can remember where it has been and can find its way back to that spot, much like most other mammals."

        I hear ya.

        I guess myself and most of my friends have built in GPS too. I mean, we can go to a bar, have drinks, and somehow, we all make it back to our homes and wake up in bed. Magic!!

        Back in the old days....I used to call it 'autopilot', get in the car and it drives itself home.

        Nowdays, I guess it is called built in GPS.

        :)

    • Re:Pay per Paper (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:30PM (#27319087)

      1. Create pay per paper site
      2. Get shitty story submitted by kdawson
      3. Massive profit

    • Re:Pay per Paper (Score:4, Insightful)

      by smallfries (601545) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:32PM (#27319133) Homepage

      Sadly most research is behind a paywall. It doesn't make it a slashvertisment though - there was enough detail in the linked article to see that the researchers are talking bollocks, and that the actual paper is unnecessary.

      GPS uses time of flight between known landmarks. The fact that the landmarks are actually moving in orbit is irrelevant. The researchers argue that chimps don't use landmarks as reference points, but instead use a geometric layout of their territory. This is called dead-reckoning.

      Edit: Preview suggests that I may be a little harsh. Their research itself may be valid and worthy. But their attempt to dumb it down for "the kids" without understanding the comparison that they are making is stupid.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by becker (190314)

        They didn't "dumb it down", they hyped it up.

        "Animals with built-in GPS!! Planet facing imminent destruction!! More at 11."

        • by eonlabs (921625)

          to actually get something valuable from the article, look up the words kinesthesia or proprioception. Apply beyond the limited frame of reference of a person's own being.

        • "They didn't "dumb it down", they hyped it up"

          Same thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by destinyland (578448)
      Hey! My original submission just linked to this entirely different web site instead. [hplusmagazine.com]

      After reading that article, I went the extra mile to dig up the original research paper, because I thought it would make it more authoritative.
  • ... in Texas [slashdot.org]!

  • by Herr_Skymarshall (1029532) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:25PM (#27318937)

    Does it run Linux?

  • But... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ATOMISCHE (1249922) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:29PM (#27319065) Homepage
    Calling it GPS implies they are using external signals to locate. The article says the chimps are creating and using internal distance transform maps.
    • No silly, the chimps have simply evolved to use the working GPS satellites in use for navigation. You should always assume that no word in an article covering a scientific paper are simply hype and never assume anything is misrepresented.

      *apologizes for sarcastic rant*
    • Isn't that just... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by caitsith01 (606117) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:35PM (#27319199) Journal

      ...a fancy way of saying "remembering where stuff is relative to other stuff"?

      My cat can do that. If she wants to come upstairs in my house, she'll walk in a straight line to the bottom of the staircase from wherever she is, up the stairs, and in a straight line from there to wherever she wants to be.

      I guess she's got "cat GPS" and/or is "using internal distance transform maps"... I never knew she was so talented.

      I would think most semi-complex animals have this ability.

      • by NineNine (235196) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @06:05PM (#27319925)

        I agree. I have a completely blind cat, and she gets around the house just fine, only running into stuff if I move furniture. It's really impressive to see, as she learns her environment the first time around. This article wasn't news to me.

        • by kestasjk (933987) *

          I agree. I have a completely blind cat, and she gets around the house just fine, only running into stuff if I move furniture. It's really impressive to see, as she learns her environment the first time around. This article wasn't news to me.

          YouTube it: Instant 5 million views.

      • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @06:09PM (#27320029) Homepage Journal
        • Wakes up in middle of night. Bloody cats on the bed again
        • Puts cat out through front door
        • One minute passes
        • Cat comes back

        The animal had gone to the back of the house, climbed to the upper story and come into the house through a little window high in the shower cubicle of the upstairs bathroom. Then it walked back down the stairs and into our room.

        Of course it has a map. What it doesn't know is that I am going to strangle it if it keeps pulling tricks like that.

        • by david.given (6740) <dg AT cowlark DOT com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @06:35PM (#27320559) Homepage Journal

          The animal had gone to the back of the house, climbed to the upper story and come into the house through a little window high in the shower cubicle of the upstairs bathroom. Then it walked back down the stairs and into our room.

          No, that's far too much effort. What actually happened was the cat read your mind, realised that you knew a plausible route by which it could get in, and so after being put out it just sat comfortably until you were out of sight and then teleported back onto your bed, knowing that you would never suspect anything.

          Cats put the kind of effort into being lazy that the most hardened work ethic afficionado could only dream of.

        • by bitrex (859228)

          He gave it to a little boy with a dollar note, Told him for to take it up the river in a boat; They tied a rope around its neck, it must have weighed a pound; Now they drag the river for a little boy that's drowned.

          But the cat came back the very next day, The cat came back, we thought he was a goner! But the cat came back; it just couldn't stay away. Away, away, yea, yea, yea

      • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @06:10PM (#27320045)

        ...a fancy way of saying "remembering where stuff is relative to other stuff"?

        Yeah, I was thinking that this is just a bit of "dead reckoning," combined with old salty pirate skills:

        "Arrrgh, when yee see the rock, that looks like the skull of a monkey, turn left, take twenty paces, and the treasure is buried below. But beware the curse . . ."

        I guess she's got "cat GPS" and/or is "using internal distance transform maps"...

        Just to be on the safe side, see if your cat can perform the same trick, while wearing a tinfoil hat. And please get back to us if she can. Maybe those felines are up to something behind our backs.

      • A cat will remember how to get from A to Z via P, but if you block that path they will not automatically know that they can also get from A to Z via Q. That's why they do that annoying thing of walking in one door and then standing at another door asking to be let out.

        I remember reading a thing about how women give directions versus men and apparently women have a similar way of dealing with spacial relationships. Directions are remembered as a sequence of landmarks for women rather than a map as in men, wh

    • JPS (Score:5, Funny)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @06:02PM (#27319857) Homepage
      They have JPS: Jungle Positioning System
    • Since GPS is illegal in Egypt, this means that Chimps now are too!

  • duh.

  • by Barsteward (969998) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:31PM (#27319107)
    they sh*t everywhere and you'd have to feed it bananas for directions.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by flu1d (664635)
      At least only one of those apply to my tomtom
    • they sh*t everywhere and you'd have to feed it bananas for directions.

      Well, if you run out of bananas, the chimp might be happy to eat your face and hands as a substitute, as recently happened in Connecticut. Those tomtoms are looking like a better deal all the time.

      • Are you saying a TomTom won't eat my face? They should include that in the advertisements.

        "And now with less Face-eating!"

  • by edittard (805475) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:33PM (#27319153)

    No they don't. Drop them somewhere they've never been before and ask them to go somewhere else they've never been before and they'll either pull funny faces at you or initiate a poo barrage.

    Tell me again, what does the G in GPS stand for? It sure doesn't stand for "having a reasonable memory of your surroundings and a rough sense of direction". And neither do the P or the S.

    Bullshit summary again. Or maybe bullshit article. Who cares? After a while, you don't bother.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805)

      You are taking their analogy far too literally. The chimps (apparently) appear to use at the least a coordinate like system of navigation. The GPS analogy works here as we humans use a coordinate system (via GPS) to navigate on occasion. It probably doesn't work globally for the chimps as their coordinate system would be localized to their territory.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        The chimps (apparently) appear to use at the least a coordinate like system of navigation.

        They claim that the chimps use a coordinate-like system of navigation because it looks that way to them. From the summary this sounds stupid (and it probably is) but who knows? I'm sure not going to pay to read the paper. Here's why it's probably wrong, though: When you drive from your home to the bank to the store to your home, say, you are hitting certain waypoints. However, you are constrained to follow non-linear paths because you are attempting to follow social conventions. Whether the chimps are using

      • by radtea (464814)

        The GPS analogy works here as we humans use a coordinate system (via GPS) to navigate on occasion.

        The analogy fails because we call our co-ordinate systems "MAPS", not "GPS".

        If they said, "Chimps have a mental map" no one would be complaining. But a GPS is not a map. It is a way of locating yourself on a map that has some very specific characteristics, the most important one being that it is GLOBAL, which the locale-specific mechanisms that the chimps are using are not.

        Humans were using this kind of map-b

    • by billstewart (78916) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:40PM (#27319333) Journal

      Yeah - TFA says the chimps kept mental maps of their surroundings, and it was the researchers that used GPS because it all looked like jungle to them. That's different from migratory birds or insects which apparently use magnetic fields or sunlight angles for navigation.

    • editard writes:
      "No they don't."

      Thank you Captain Literal.

      Do you really think anyone meant to imply primates have, in their brains, something commensurate with features found in a Garmin?

      "Bullshit summary again. Or maybe bullshit article. Who cares? After a while, you don't bother."

      I think we just found your problem...

      • by edittard (805475)

        Do you really think anyone meant to imply primates have, in their brains, something commensurate with features found in a Garmin?

        Why don't you find someone who understands English and ask them how many ways to interpret "Chimps Have a Built-In GPS" they can think of?

        Bear in mind that some animals really do have quite advanced navigational organs that we humans have to emulate with technological substitutes.

        Birds had magnetic compasses in their heads way before we had them on ships.

    • by NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:57PM (#27319761)

      Maybe it's just that people writing these summaries and/or articles haven't the faintest clue how GPS operates. It's just a magical box on their dashboard that can figure out a route from A to B, so when <other creature/object X> can plan a route from one point to another, it must be similar, right?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by need4mospd (1146215)
      The G stands for genital. They know where they are by using their genital's relationship to their surroundings.
      • Isn't that how everyone gets around?

        *Note: Apparently reading /. and chewing gum is harder (or more dangerous) than walking and chewing gum. I almost choked when I read your comment.

    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @06:20PM (#27320215) Homepage

      It's not just what GPS stands for, either. Not every positioning system that works globally is GPS. Yeah, I'm being pedantic, but "GPS" really is supposed to indicate the particular system, not just any system.

      So saying chimps have built-in GPS because they can navigate is a little like saying they have built-in Canon Powershot cameras because they can see.

      • by microbee (682094)

        Right, except there is no other commonly available positioning system like the GPS. Just like the Internet. After a while, a specific term becomes a generic term.

        • But there is. A bunch of maps, a compass, and a sextant. It can be quite accurate and not overly slow, but GPS is faster, more accurate, takes less skill, and is lighter. On the downside, GPS uses batteries.
        • It's not an entirely meaningless distinction, since there has been another system [wikipedia.org] and there are additional systems [wikipedia.org] being planned.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chris Mattern (191822)

      Bullshit summary again. Or maybe bullshit article. Who cares? After a while, you don't bother.

      Bullshit summary. Article just said that researchers used GPS to keep track of where they were while following the chimps around. I'm going to have to see if I can just filter out kdawson's articles.

  • I must have missed all the Chimp satellite launches, when did they happen?
  • Haven't you seen "Planet of the Apes"?
  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:34PM (#27319193)
    Few people know this, but he actually knows what the next three days of Slashdot articles are going to be. Even breaking news articles, he's already taken it into account and written it up ahead of time. He knows what you are going to submit before you do.
  • People have this too - although it has to be trained. Most of our extra senses are so underused, that we need to kickstart them somehow, before we become consciously aware of them.

    http://hackaday.com/2009/02/05/haptic-compass/ [hackaday.com]

    After using his vibrating belt for a while, he knew exactly where he was and what direction he was going, even with it taken off.

    Brains are amazing. If you provide them with more info, they figure out how to use it.

  • Devolution (Score:4, Funny)

    by Goalie_Ca (584234) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:36PM (#27319239)
    So can someone please explain to me our cousin species can manage to navigate such dense forest with such high precision while many of my highly-intelligent ex girlfriends managed to get lost so easily on short walks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It probably has something to do with our chimp cousins living in an environment that requires more day-to-day use of navigation. Survival might require remembering that there are predators or chimps you don't get along with in area A, or knowing that you better be careful in area B because you've fallen several times after grabbing rotten or slippery branches/vines there.

      Your ex-girlfriends probably didn't have any reason to attach negative survival consequence to getting lost on a short walk, so not much

  • chimpanzees have a built-in mental GPS

    "All the better to eat your face and hands off with my dear!"

    Yes, chimps are dirty, vicious, murdering animals who will eat your face and hands.
    Now with GPS!

  • Maybe their brains could form a good basis for organic computer autopilots. But last I heard, they had no satellite antennas built in.
  • (Sorry, had to be said)

  • If these chimps are using the FAT32 file system, I would like to know.
        - Steve Ballmer.

  • Does this mean (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SnarfQuest (469614) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:49PM (#27319571)

    With this built-in GPS, would chimp-mounted lasers be more accurate than shark-mounted ones?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Culture20 (968837)

      With this built-in GPS, would chimp-mounted lasers be more accurate than shark-mounted ones?

      Yes, but the chimps tend to drown when you throw them in the water. Something about their density and not having gills.

  • by ve3id (601924) <nw...johnson@@@ieee...org> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:49PM (#27319585)
    I already knew this. Why do we spend such money on research? Think about it, have you ever had a chimp ask you for directions?
  • Maybe they happen to like traveling in straight lines, and researchers are assuming that "point B" was the intended destination.
  • by acb (2797)

    I wonder where their satellite constellations are.

  • Amazing. Looks like we've moved on?
  • by greg_barton (5551) * <(greg_barton) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:31PM (#27324489) Homepage Journal

    My daughter is 19 months old. Almost as soon as she could walk at 13 months she was navigating the house on her own. She knew how to get back to her room from the kitchen, three doors, two rooms and a hallway away. Heck, she couldn't even open the doors on her own, but she sure could toddle over to them and squeak until we did it for her. :)

    It's not like we taught her how to remember 2d layouts and navigate them. She just did it.

    She's my first kid, and I'm learning more about intelligence and learning from watching her than I ever did in all of my AI classes.

    Another example: she loves sitting in the driver's seat of our car, playing with the steering wheel and the keys. The first time she did it she was holding the keys in her left hand, but the ignition is on the right side of the steering column. She tried reaching over to put the keys in, but immediately realized she couldn't reach, so she switched the keys to her right hand. Do you know how difficult it would be to code up that kind of coordination and reasoning process in a robot? Frikkin' hard! But she just did it.

    It's helped me realize just how much behavior and intelligence is hard coded in our brains. There's a lot that my wife and I are teaching my daughter, but there's no way we could have taught her everything she now knows, and I seriously doubt she's figured it all out by mimicry. (Especially the complex skills and problem solving behavior.) So the idea that a primate could have a "built in" mental mapping ability makes perfect sense now that I've seen such a thing in action.

    • ... but in a way we are all monkeys ... so .. the apple sure didn't fall far from the tree...

      Intelligence isn't measurable but discoverable ...

      We should be happy to know our own evolution as primate; it shows intelligence has gone a far ride ... (with lots of obstacles) ..

  • does have one to perfectly aim the chairs he thows ?
  • ...any one else worry that this implied Chimp controlled, orbiting satellites?

    Damn you, bloody apes!

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