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Durham University

Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Professor Russell Hill

de Raad, A.L. & Hill, R.A. (2019). Topological spatial representation in wild chacma baboons (Papio ursinus). Animal Cognition 22(3): 397-412.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Many species orient towards specific locations to reach important resources using different cognitive mechanisms. Some of these, such as path integration, are now well understood, but the cognitive orientation mechanisms that underlie movements in non-human primates remain the subject of debate. To investigate whether movements of chacma baboons are more consistent with Euclidean or topological spatial awareness, we investigated whether baboons made repeated use of the same network of pathways and tested three predictions resulting from the hypothesized use of Euclidean and topological spatial awareness. We recorded ranging behaviour of a group of baboons during 234 full days and 137 partial days in the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa. Results show that our baboons travelled through a dense network of repeated routes. In navigating this route network, the baboons did not approach travel goals from all directions, but instead approached them from a small number of the same directions, supporting topological spatial awareness. When leaving travel goals, baboons’ initial travel direction was significantly different from the direction to the next travel goal, again supporting topological spatial awareness. Although we found that our baboons travelled with similar linearity in the core area as in the periphery of their home range, this did not provide conclusive evidence for the existence of Euclidean spatial awareness, since the baboons could have accumulated a similar knowledge of the periphery as of the core area. Overall, our findings support the hypothesis that our baboons navigate using a topological map.