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Chimps Have a Built-In GPS 195

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

    by megamerican ( 1073936 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @04:29PM (#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.

  • But... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ATOMISCHE ( 1249922 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @04:29PM (#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.
  • Re:Pay per Paper (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @04:30PM (#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 @04:32PM (#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.

  • by edittard ( 805475 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @04:33PM (#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.

  • Isn't that just... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by caitsith01 ( 606117 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @04:35PM (#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 wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @04:38PM (#27319299) Journal

    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.

  • Re:Well, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HalWasRight ( 857007 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @04:45PM (#27319479) Journal
    I agree. Why does this type of thing [] surprise anyone? Oh, that's right. Some people think humans are somehow, er, special beings [].
  • Typical (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @04:50PM (#27319613)

    This is typical kdawson editing failure.

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

  • Re:Pay per Paper (Score:3, Insightful)

    by becker ( 190314 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @06:15PM (#27321329)

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

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

  • Re:Pay per Paper (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @08:55PM (#27323617) Homepage Journal
    "$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.


  • 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.

  • Re:Pay per Paper (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:29AM (#27325305)

    How do evolutionists explain this?

    IANAOrnithologist but I think the prevailing theory is that birds can sense the Earth's magnetic field in a far more useful capacity than we; and they use this to navigate long distances. And for the record, those young birds are following their parents. You seem to have left that out for an increased 'awe' factor.

    Butterflies, bees, and even fish, can see in the ultraviolet spectrum; and are privy to a whole world of sensory input that we are not. A bird with a brain the size of a marble that can read an invisible flux field to find its breeding ground is no less amazing than a dumb, blind, virus finding a cell with a vulnerable receptor to exploit. They're both quite simple to those with the right tools; they just seem complicated to those without them.

    See also: linux vs your grandparents.

    Anyway: How might an 'evolutionist' explain it? Natural selection is pretty self explanatory. The birds that couldn't find their way died in the ocean, thus did not reproduce. Make a paper airplane, but not particularly well. Make 1000 more. Rig a machine that can throw them all exactly the same force and trajectory. Throw them at a target area. Throw out all the ones that missed. Move the machine to the target area, now throw them back. Throw out all the ones that missed. Replicate the designs of the remaining planes. You just adapted a normal paper airplane design to one that can fly to a seemingly random/remote breeding ground and return home. The selective forces here were random turbulence, and aerodynamic bias. For the birds its the ability to read the magnetosphere,

  • Re:Pay per Paper (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ( 886486 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @03:45AM (#27326309) Homepage

    > How do evolutionists explain this?


    But I don't agree with what "we" are supposed to think about birds. Apart from the chimp the only other known animal to create and use tools is the crow.

    As a mammal though, I'd imagine birds would be very disinclined to land on water, just like I won't sit down on hot steaming magma on a mountain trip. A puppy don't have to experience a severe burn in order to know it shouldn't sleep in a fireplace.

    Evolution is not explained, it's discovered, and it's largely unexplained thanks to our long acceptance of a simpler solution which can easily prove that birds imitated airplanes regardless of the historical chronology, or that dogs are in fact closet firemen. This "answer" is God.

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

    by fulldecent ( 598482 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @07:56AM (#27328151) Homepage

    So the real question is... how do I filter kdawson out of my RSS feed?

Math is like love -- a simple idea but it can get complicated. -- R. Drabek