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Importance of the use of number outside mammals

Posted by Chapouthier on 14 Mar 2009 at 09:15 GMT

The question of the ability of animals to master numbers still remains largely unanswered. Mental representation of number has been convincingly documented only for a few mammals. The authors provide here clear evidence that fish (mosquitofish) are capable of using
both number and continuous extent in a learning discrimination, though they tend to “prefer” continuous extent rather number. When they have only access to number they however can use this information, showing they can master number, as mammals do. In my opinion, this discovery is of great potential importance for the understanding of the mind of vertebrates. In a phyletic point of view, in this quite homogeneous group, as mentioned by the authors, “ numerical systems may be more ancient than we had previously assumed.”