College students, fish show surprising similarities in numerical approximation

Feb 15, 2012

Fish are as good at evaluating numerical ratios as college students are, says a study published in the Feb. 15 issue of the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Both the fish and the college students had to determine which of two collections of objects was larger. The students played a computerized game in which they chose the display showing more dots, without verbally counting them. The guppies were given the option to join either of two groups of fish, in adjoining tanks to each side; previous work has shown that show a strong preference for larger groups.

The results showed strong similarities between the behaviors of the two species. In both cases, the ability to distinguish between depended greatly on the ratio between them; for example, it would be easier to choose between 25 and 5 (high ratio) than between 25 and 20 (low ratio). On the other hand, for smaller numbers (up to four), the ratio did not affect the participant's ability to discriminate.

The authors, led by Christian Agrillo of the University of Padova in Italy, write that their results may suggest an ancient for modern human mathematical abilities.

Explore further: Research shows impact of BMR on brain size in fish

More information: Agrillo C, Piffer L, Bisazza A, Butterworth B (2012) Evidence for Two Numerical Systems That Are Similar in Humans and Guppies. PLoS ONE 7(2):e31923. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031923

Related Stories

Can angelfish do math?

Jan 27, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Beauty and brains don't often come together. But angelfish, a species prized by pet fish owners for its bright good looks, might possess math skills, show studies coauthored by Professor Robert ...

Single wild female

Sep 22, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The release of a single female guppy into the wild can generate entire new populations, even with no males present, according to new research.

Recommended for you

Research shows impact of BMR on brain size in fish

Apr 24, 2015

A commonly used term to describe nutritional needs and energy expenditure in humans – basal metabolic rate – could also be used to give insight into brain size of ocean fish, according to new research by Dr Teresa Iglesias ...

Why do animals fight members of other species?

Apr 23, 2015

Why do animals fight with members of other species? A nine-year study by UCLA biologists says the reason often has to do with "obtaining priority access to females" in the area.

Dolphins use extra energy to communicate in noisy waters

Apr 23, 2015

Dolphins that raise their voices to be heard in noisy environments expend extra energy in doing so, according to new research that for the first time measures the biological costs to marine mammals of trying ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

epsi00
not rated yet Feb 15, 2012
animals don't bother with problems with no practical importance to them. If one day a species, other than ours, is faced with a problem that requires higher math, you can bet your house that it will find a solution.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.