Ever wondered can animals count or understand the concept of numbers? Recent studies have uncovered new instances of a counting skill in different species, suggesting that mathematical abilities could be more fundamental in biology than previously thought. Under certain conditions, monkeys could sometimes outperform college students. Animals like horses, elephants and chimpanzees can count objects to some extent.
Japanese studies conducted on elephants made it evident that they can count and differentiate between more or less as well. As part of study, researchers placed two bowls containing 3 and 5 apples each in front of a herd of elephants. They then added 2 apples in each bowl. Out of six chances given to choose a bowl, the elephants choose the bowl with more apples five times, which means they could count. It was also proved that when quantities increased more than 10 in each bowl, the elephants chose the heavier bowl rather than counting.
Elizabeth Brannon of Duke University conducted similar experiments with rhesus monkeys, getting them to match the number of sounds they hear to the number of shapes they see, proving they can do math across different senses. She feels that animals do not have a linguistic sense of numbers—they aren’t counting “one, two, three” in their heads—they can do a rough sort of math by summing sets of objects without actually using numbers, and she believes that ability is innate.
Image: Flickr/Donna Brown