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Pigeons are Good at Math, Alas

December 22, 2011, 5:58 PM

What's the Big Idea?

It has been known for a while that birds can count. What researchers have just discovered is pigeons can learn abstract numerical rules, according to a study published in the journal Science. What is astonishing is that pigeons, who learned to peck numbers on a screen in order, performed just as well in tests as rhesus monkeys at numerical competence. 

What's the Significance?

This is the first time complex math skills have been discovered in non-primates, which means birds and primates either evolved these abilities separately or share a common ancestor. The latter possibility means that both would have been around 300 million years ago. 

Here is an image of a pigeon taking a math test:

William van der Vliet 

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan


Pigeons are Good at Math, Alas

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