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Monday, 3 September 2007

Evolution in action-Monkeys learn to do arithmetic for peanuts

It takes a smart monkey to do mathematics, and although Elsa Addessi insists her 10 capuchins aren't quite doing sums, she admits they must be pretty clever to be able to pass the tests that she has put them through. One can even handle multiplication.

Addessi, a researcher at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies in Rome, Italy, tested whether her capuchins could understand the value of monkey money, and then use it to buy the greatest amount of food.

First, all ten capuchins successfully learned that a blue token would "buy" them one piece of peanut whereas a yellow token would get them three, and if offered the choice between one of each token, they would be better off choosing a yellow one.

But things became more difficult when they were asked to choose between one yellow and up to five blue tokens.
Monkey business

Two monkeys went for quantity, always choosing the larger stack of tokens on offer, regardless of the token's colour. Another four preferred colour over quantity, always choosing yellow tokens over blue, however many blue tokens were on offer.

The ability to discriminate between "less" and "more" is important for most animals. Figuring out which tree has more berries on it, for example, or determining whether there are more friends than enemies in an area, are matters of life and death (see Number of the beasts).

What is unique about Addessi's study is that the monkeys didn't just choose between quantities but also showed they were able to represent them using symbols – much as humans use coins to represent value.

"I find this quite surprising coming from an animal that diverged from us 35 million years ago," Addessi told New Scientist
For source click here.
My comment: Now you tell me, no one has lived to see an animal evolve. Of course, that experiment is just a hint of the actual evolution, but after all we have been observing the Nature for the mere few thousand years, whilst the Evolution has played around for millions of years. Go figure what would we become without the alien shoulder on our own Evolution.

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