Black Bears May Be Able to Count

By Mat McDermott, TreeHugger

Further, rather fascinating, illustration that non-human animals can be far more than intelligent than they are generally given credit for: New research in Animal Behaviour shows that American black bears have at least rudimentary counting ability, demonstrating performance “similar to that found previously with monkeys,” which “suggests that bears may also show other forms of sophisticated quantitative abilities.”

To determine this, the scientists put bears through number-based tests on a touch-screen computer, which rewarded them for correct answers. BBC Nature describes the tests:

“They touched the screen to select one or other of the arrays, and were given food if they got the answer right. One bear was rewarded for touching the screen with a greater number dots, and for the other two bears, a correct answer was an array with a fewer number of dots. The team wanted to ensure that the animals were not merely estimating magnitude, a skill that has been shown by many animals.”

Sometimes the dots were moving and sometimes not, but, “Despite encountering greater difficulty with dots that moved within the arrays, one bear was able to discriminate numerically larger arrays of moving dots, and a subset of moving dots from within the larger array, even when area and number were incongruent. Thus, although the bears used area as a cue to guide their responses, they were also able to use number as a cue.”

The scientists say that this is the first time a species that has not evolved to live socially has demonstrated the ability to individuate items.


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Past Member 1 years ago

Hmmmm. Don't we all love animal articles?

Lydia Weissmuller Price

Of course bears and other animals [even non-social ones] can count. Most can often tell at a glance if one of their children or a food item is missing. Try taking one of his apples from his pile and see if he doesn't look for it.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra3 years ago

Thank you Molly, for Sharing this!

Sue H.
sue H.4 years ago

We are all smarter than the world seems to think. Animals are living in a more difficult place than we do and do so without tools, doctors or cars! They make decisions and seem to get along. That is why to kill and treat animals poorly, you must believe they can not think at all.

Lisa Eveland
Lisa Eveland4 years ago

thanks for sharing

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

intersting but not shocking

Kamryn M.
Kay M.4 years ago

of course they can.

Kamryn M.
Kay M.4 years ago

of course they can.

Darla Taylor
Past Member 4 years ago

I'm not at all surprised that bears are smarter than we give them credit for as all animals are much smarter than we think.

Kim W.
Kim W.4 years ago

I am guessing this has more to do with their love of honey then being able to count from 1 to 10 type deal. If there are a large number of dots, say bees, in a glance, might they not wait until not so many bees to go in for the sweet treat? And most animals that are tested or trained with a reward system based on food, can and will give you the desired results quickly. Food = survival. Not truly a scientific study. Most animals are indeed very smart they have to be, but from centuries of study, it tends to revolve around the whole flight or fight mentality.