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Elephants can be whizzes at Math, too

A few weeks ago, I posted a little news article about ‘Calculus Going to the dogs’

Now, it looks like dogs are not alone. Elephants can do it too – does it have anything to do with the fact that elephants are supposed to have a sharp memory? Well, elephants can count.

The Asian elephant named Ashya (in the video) managed to solve this addition problem, much to the amazement and disappointment of a reporter. The elephant’s trainer dropped three apples into one bucket and one apple into a second, then four more apples in the first and five more in the second. The pachyderm KNEW that 3 + 4 is more than 1 + 5 and coolly went for the seven apples! Naoko Irie, a Japanese researcher discovered the elephant’s ability and presented her paper at the International Society for Behavioral Ecology’s annual meeting in Ithaca, New York, last week. She found that not only can elephants add small numbers but also differentiate between them.

Interestingly, most animals – right from salamanders to pigeons to chimps – are capable of recognizing numerical values. When it comes to making instant decisions about two quantities, all animals (including humans) can differentiate between two quantities when the ratio between the large and small number is greatest.

But with elephants in particular, Irie found, from the four she tested, they could ‘tell’ the difference between five and six in the same way as they did with five and one. They simply went for the bucket that had more fruit. How do they do it? Is it because Asian elephants gregariously live in groups of six to eight, and count to make sure everyone belonging to the group is present? Is it because of their bulging brains and their relationship with other clever animals?Whatever – 🙂 enjoy the video.

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Cheers!

Vidya

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