Pigeons Ace Math Tests

Perform as well as monkeys at abstract number quiz
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Dec 23, 2011 6:56 AM CST

(Newser) – Don't let those blank stares fool you: Pigeons, it seems, are the math nerds of the bird world. Researchers found that the creatures can do more than count—they can handle numbers in the abstract sense, an ability never before seen outside primates, the New York Times reports. Pigeons were able to perform as well as rhesus monkeys when tasked with putting numbers in order from low to high.

Scientists trained the birds over a year to peck images showing quantities of one, two, and three in size order. The next step for the birds, as for the rhesus monkeys, was to use their skills with the lower numbers to peck higher numbers in the correct order. Shown quantities of six and nine, they were able to do so. "I was surprised," said a researcher. The study suggests that either the birds and the monkeys have a 300-million-year-old common ancestor, or they evolved counting abilities separately. (Read more pigeon stories.)

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