Howler monkeys navigate using adaptable mental maps, just like humans


A Black Howler monkey

A black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra)

Shutterstock / Ethan Daniels

Black howler monkeys transfer by means of their atmosphere utilizing psychological maps that they modify and adapt because the panorama modifications – a talent beforehand seen solely in people.

In 2016, Miguel de Guinea at Oxford Brookes College, UK, spent a 12 months in Palenque Nationwide Park, Mexico, monitoring teams of black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) to look at how the primates traverse the advanced rainforest panorama.

Tagging the monkeys with GPS monitoring expertise would have been too invasive, so de Guinea and a bunch of volunteers needed to comply with them on foot. “It was a bit exhausting at instances,” he says. Monitoring the monkeys incessantly required the researchers to cross rivers and to climb to the pinnacles of historical Mayan temples. However the outcomes of their endeavours had been stunning.

“We discovered that the monkeys comply with sure routes,” says de Guinea, “however they construction and mix these routes in an environment friendly, human-like method.”

Whereas most animals transfer by means of an atmosphere semi-randomly or by intuition, people are completely different. We are likely to comply with acquainted routes encoded in psychological maps. We even have a spatial sense of how places are organized within the panorama. Which means if an impediment blocks a well-recognized path, we are able to change course – maybe briefly switching to a different acquainted route heading in a distinct route – to navigate the impediment and nonetheless attain our desired vacation spot. As de Guinea’s workforce studied the black howler monkeys, they realised the primates do that too.

For instance, the monkeys within the research would at all times method favorite fruit bushes from the identical route. What’s extra, whereas the monkeys would not often deviate from established routes, that they had no downside doing so if, as an example, a tree forming a part of a route had fallen down. In such instances, the monkeys rapidly labored out easy methods to join the damaged route to a different acquainted route, so they might navigate the impediment and nonetheless attain their goal.

They may additionally join sure routes finish to finish so as to journey lengthy distances, or they might take shortcuts from one route to a different. The best way the monkeys would leap from one route to a different means that they’ve some idea of how these routes relate to one another in bodily house, say the researchers.

In different phrases, the monkeys can simply amend their route-based view of the world with some information of route and geography, very similar to people do. “It was an enormous effort,” says de Guinea, “nevertheless it was price it to grasp the fascinating cognitive expertise that black howler monkeys exhibit within the wild.”

Journal reference: Journal of Experimental Biology, DOI: 10.1242/jeb.242430

Signal as much as Wild Wild Life, a free month-to-month e-newsletter celebrating the range and science of animals, crops and Earth’s different extraordinary inhabitants

Extra on these matters:


Supply hyperlink