February 17, 2019

Honeybees Can Do Math

“The honeybee’s brain has about 1 million neurons. While that may sound like a lot, it’s pretty tiny compared to other species. A mouse brain has about 75 million neurons. Humans have 100 billion, or 100,000 times more.

Yet even with this small hardware, the bee brain is capable of accomplishing many complex tasks. One of them is basic math.

In a new study in Scientific Advances, scientists in Australia have shown that honeybees can add and subtract if trained to do so. It shows animals don’t need a huge brain — or anything even resembling human language — to think in terms of numbers. “We propose that language and prior advanced numerical understanding are not a prerequisite necessary for the ability to calculate addition and subtraction solutions,” the study’s authors conclude.

It’s often hard to probe and access animals’ cognitive abilities. So this study gives us some more insight into what type of thinking many animals may be capable of.”

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