Monkeys can do math

Posted by Emma Woollacott

First it's chatty dolphins, now it's mathematical monkeys. They can add, subtract and make decisions on the basis of their calculations, new research shows.

A team at Germany's University of Tubingen trained monkeys to look at a number of dots on a screen and compare them with a different set shown later.

They were able to work out which image contained more dots, and make decisions based on the answer. When there were apples to be had as a reward, they got it right as much as 90 percent of the time.

"The findings suggest that basic mathematics is hard-wired into evolution," lead author Professor Andreas Nieder told the Daily Telegraph.

"It is a primitive version of maths which we think has a survival advantage. If you are foraging, then it is an advantage to choose a tree with more berries on it."

Similarly, he points out, it's useful to know whether there's more of you or of them before you get into a fight with a rival group.

The full report appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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