Pigeons Do Math

The birds’ brains might be more like ours than previously thought.


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Scientists have found that pigeons are capable of understanding simple math, exhibiting qualities previously only known to exist in primates. In a study performed at the University of Otago in New Zealand, researchers recreated an experiment in which rhesus monkeys were asked to rank groups of items from lowest number to highest, displaying that they understood that two things are more than one, and so on. When given the same tests, the pigeons displayed equal understanding, and their results were indistinguishable from the monkeys’. Researchers believe that both monkeys and pigeons evolved their mathematical abilities separately, and the study represents a step forward in the well-documented field of animal intelligence.

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