Sure, Animals Count; But Can They Count?
Sometimes it seems like Fido understands you. Or Kitty knows exactly what makes you tick. Or in my case, growing up on a farm, that our goats must somehow have been related to Houdini. They always escaped their pens.
What is the nature, and extent, of animal intelligence? Natalie Angier in the New York Times asks this very question, focusing on numbers. She claims, “Many Animals Can Count, Some Better Than You.”
She gives many examples. Three-spined sticklebacks, for instance, enjoy “a contrast ratio of .86,” that is, “they’re able to tell six fellow fish from seven, or 18 from 21 — a comparative power that many birds, mammals and even humans might find hard to beat.”
Angier writes about spiders, chimpanzees, and frogs. She delves into topics covered at a 2017 Royal Society conference on “The origins of numerical abilities” and in a journal issue that came out of the meeting.
The chimp example raises eyebrows.
Photo credit: Collective Evolution