Finding one's way in the rainforest | 2/7/2019 | Staff
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Knowing which direction to go in order to reach food or home is important for many animal species, including humans. For human foragers who travel long distances every day for hunting and gathering, orientation skills are essential. Haneul Jang and her colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology set out to study how the Mbendjele BaYaka people in Republic of the Congo orient themselves in the dense rainforest. The researchers conducted more than 600 pointing tests with 54 Mbendjele BaYaka men, women and children aged between six and 76 years, in which the participants were asked to point to an out-of-sight target in more than 60 different rainforest locations (including the camp).

Jang and her colleagues found that the Mbendjele BaYaka are highly accurate at pointing to distant and out-of-sight target locations. The researchers found pointing accuracy was equally good in men and women. "Gender equality in the Mbendjele BaYaka population may result in Mbendjele women's long-distance foraging for fishing and hunting as do men. This might allow women and men to develop similar orientation abilities. Our results are consistent with previous studies that found no sex differences in orientation abilities in hunter-gatherer societies where both sexes actively travel away from home. Studies from various cultures suggest that sex differences in orientation abilities may, indeed, result from sex-specific mobility, and our results add to this growing body of evidence," says Jang, lead author of the study.

Contrast - Men - Women - Society - Women

"In contrast to men and women in our society, where women may still be more likely to work at home or closer to home compared to men, we observed that Mbendjele men and women travel equally far from home, and it is therefore perhaps not surprising that they score equally well in orientation tasks. The results of our study confirm how important experience is...
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