Fish Master Math - Counting is No Problem

Previously, people didn’t suspect that fish would be good at math. But one study has shown: even fish can count! These animals were unfairly underestimated for too long.

One plus one plus one.. that’s not so hard?

It might not be for us humans (mostly ;)). But the ability to count (to add up) properly is part of a well developed intellect. This skill is much more common in mammals. Not just chimpanzees can do it. Even gorillas, Capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys, lemurs, dolphins and elephants can count. A couple of birds are also part of the “math club”: e.g. ravens, cormorants and robins.

Mosquitofish Mosquitofish - Photo: NOZO [GFDL oder CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

What Scientists Are Interested in Now

Do fish just compare amounts or do they really count?

Mosquitofish Are Geniuses

In an experiment, ten social mosquitofish were put in a tank of water. One of two doors led to a larger tank full of more mosquitofish.

However: they only made it back to their school when they swam through the door with the right number of symbols on it.

To prevent the fish from simply using a certain size of object as orientation, the researchers used a clever method: the number of symbols was always the same, but they differed each time in shape, size, brightness and distance. The mosquitofish weren’t confused, and chose the right door.

By the way: insects can count as well

Really? Yes. As well as mammals and fish, there is another animal class that can count: insects. We know about ants that count their steps to orient themselves in the desert. But bees can count too! Isn’t that incredible?