Animal Cognition

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 63–70 | Cite as

Quantity discrimination in female mosquitofish

Original Article

Abstract

The ability in animals to count and represent different numbers of objects has received a great deal of attention in the past few decades. Cumulative evidence from comparative studies on number discriminations report obvious analogies among human babies, non-human primates and birds and are consistent with the hypothesis of two distinct and widespread mechanisms, one for counting small numbers (<4) precisely, and one for quantifying large numbers approximately. We investigated the ability to discriminate among different numerosities, in a distantly related species, the mosquitofish, by using the spontaneous choice of a gravid female to join large groups of females as protection from a sexually harassing male. In one experiment, we found that females were able to discriminate between two shoals with a 1:2 numerosity ratio (2 vs. 4, 4 vs. 8 and 8 vs. 16 fish) but failed to discriminate a 2:3 ratio (8 vs. 12 fish). In the second experiment, we studied the ability to discriminate between shoals that differed by one element; females were able to select the larger shoal when the paired numbers were 2 vs. 3 or 3 vs. 4 but not 4 vs. 5 or 5 vs. 6. Our study indicates that numerical abilities in fish are comparable with those of other non-verbal creatures studied; results are in agreement with the hypothesis of the existence of two distinct systems for quantity discrimination in vertebrates.

Keywords

Fish Numerosity discrimination Numerical abilities Quantity 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Agrillo
    • 1
  • Marco Dadda
    • 1
  • Angelo Bisazza
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of General PsychologyUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly

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