6. Something wondrous
We may need to add bees to the list of creatures that understand the concept of zero, according to a new study in the journal Science. Humans, parrots and monkeys are among the animals that understand the meaning of zero, but scientists found honey bees' numerical skills extend astonishingly far.
What they did: It was known that honey bees can count, which helps them keep tabs on their environment. Scientists took 10 untrained bees and used rewards and punishment (sweet sips of sugar water or foul-tasting quinine) to get them to discern sheets of paper that had the fewest number of objects on them.
They then were presented with sheets of paper that had no objects on them at all.
What they found: Between 60% and 70% of the time, the bees understood that a blank sheet — representing zero — was less than a sheet with 1 object on it.
The results suggest that the ability to understand complex numerical concepts exists across a much broader spectrum of animals.
Writing about the study in Vox, Brian Resnick notes the vast differences between human and bee brains:
Our computers are electricity guzzling machines. The bee, however, “is doing fairly high-level cognitive tasks with a tiny drop of nectar,” says Adrian Dyer, a Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology researcher and co-author on the study. “Their brains are probably processing information in a very clever [i.e., efficient] way.”
My thought bubble: At the end of the day, our brains may be bigger and mightier, but in some ways we're not so unique after all.
Read more at Vox.