Pigeons on Par with Primates in Numerical Competence

  title={Pigeons on Par with Primates in Numerical Competence},
  author={Damian Scarf and Harlene Hayne and Michael Colombo},
  pages={1664 - 1664}
Pigeons’ ability to use abstract numerical rules appears identical to that of monkeys. Although many animals are able to discriminate stimuli differing in numerosity, only primates are thought to share our ability to employ abstract numerical rules. Here, we show that this ability is present in pigeons and that their performance is indistinguishable from that displayed by monkeys. 

Young chicks rely on perceptual grouping to discriminate prime numbers

The limits of asymmetrical grouping are investigated showing that induced grouping positively affects chicks’ performance, and this result is discussed in terms of novelty preference.

Does Presentation Format Influence Visual Size Discrimination in Tufted Capuchin Monkeys (Sapajus spp.)?

Findings suggest that – even in relatively simple visual discrimination problems where a single perceptual dimension has to be judged – learning speed strongly depends on the mode of presentation.

Apes, feathered apes, and pigeons: differences and similarities

Does the Stimulus Type Influence Horses’ Performance in a Quantity Discrimination Task?

It is concluded that quantity discrimination competence may only be of minor importance for horses and the influence of experimental conditions on the outcome of cognitive tests is highlighted.

Young chicks rely on symmetry/asymmetry in perceptual grouping to discriminate sets of elements

It is shown that day-old chicks can solve extremely complex numerical discriminations, and that their performance can be enhanced by the presence of symmetrical/asymmetrical colour grouping, and suggested the existence of a spontaneous mechanism that enables chicks to create symmetrical (i.e. same-sized) subgroups of sets of elements.

Columban Simulation Project 2.0: Numerical Competence and Orthographic Processing in Pigeons and Primates

Signature testing is employed to assess whether pigeons and primates employ a similar mechanism on tasks that tap numerical competence and orthographic processing and demonstrates the absence of a qualitative difference.

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  • Biology, Psychology
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Comparing the cognitive and physiological mechanisms found in a nonhuman primate and a corvid songbird suggests that remotely related vertebrates with distinctly developed endbrains adopted similar physiological solutions to common computational problems in numerosity processing.



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Rhesus monkeys represent the numerosities 1 to 9 on an ordinal scale and detect their ordinal disparity, and use numerical representations computationally to represent visual stimuli.

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    Nature Reviews Neuroscience
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Neural representations of numerical information can engage extensive cerebral networks, but the posterior parietal cortex and the prefrontal cortex are the key structures in primates.

Numerical competence in a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes).

It is demonstrated that counting strategies and the representational use of numbers lie within the cognitive domain of the chimpanzee and compare favorably with the spontaneous use of addition algorithms demonstrated in preschool children.

Evidence for counting in insects

It is found that bees can count up to four objects, when they are encountered sequentially during flight, and trained in this way are able count novel objects, which they have never previously encountered, thus demonstrating that they are capable of object-independent counting.

Episodic-like memory during cache recovery by scrub jays

It is shown that scrub jays remember ‘when’ food items are stored by allowing them to recover perishable ‘wax worms’ (wax-moth larvae) and non-perishable peanuts which they had previously cached in visuospatially distinct sites.

The Ecological Significance of Tool Use in New Caledonian Crows

Stable isotope analysis reveals the nutritional benefits of tool use in wild New Caledonian crows and provides estimates of larva-intake rates and shows that just a few larvae can satisfy a crow’s daily energy requirements, highlighting the substantial rewards available to competent tool users.


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For materials and methods, see supporting material available on Science Online

  • For materials and methods, see supporting material available on Science Online

Curr. Biol

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