“Mathematics is the only true universal language”

Animals' counting ability

Human beings are not the only species on Earth enable to work on mathematics. Other animals may do mathematics but we do not know whether they have similar mathematical skills or they have different skills to do mathematics.

Recently, researchers have found that Dolphins can do significant mathematical skills involving complex, nonlinear math. This research has been published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

This mathematics by dolphins, which involves addition, subtraction, multiplication and ratio comparisons, is found to be responsible for hunting techniques of dolphins. Researchers found that dolphins do mathematics in two stages to catch their prey.

In the first stage, dolphins send out pulses varying in amplitude. The first may be of amplitude 1 while the second may be of 1/3.

“So, provided the dolphin remembers what the ratios of the two pulses were, and can multiply the second echo by that and add the echoes together, it can make the fish ‘visible’ to its sonar,” Leighton, a professor of ultrasonics and underwater acoustics at the University of Southampton, also working as  associate dean there, told Discovery News. “This is detection enhancement.”

“Bubbles cause false alarms because they scatter strongly and a dolphin cannot afford to waste its energy chasing false alarms while the real fish escape,” Leighton explained.

In the second stage, echo of the second pulse is first multiplied by three and subtracted from one another. This second stage confirms the presence of the fish.

In a research on tropical angelfish, it has been found that fishes can count up to three and have math-related skills. They have the ability to tell the difference between 3 and 2.

Not only this but researchers also found that Rhesus monkeys have some ability to count numbers. This research was published in 2000 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.  In 2011, researchers reported in the journal Science that pigeons have about the same level of counting ability as that of monkeys. It has been found that monkeys and pigeons are able to count up to nine by using numerical rules.

In another research, it has been found in 2008 that Elephants have the ability to perform simple arithmetic. Although chimps, pigeons and salamanders have the numerical abilities but elephants are better in distinguishing the figures, when the numbers are more similar.

Ants are also found to transmit information and use quantitative values as reported by Reznikova in 2001 in Computer and Information Science. Moreover, honeybees have also been found to have counting abilities. They have the ability to count up to four objects.

Hyenas can count up to three numbers as shown by the paper published in the August 2011 issue of the journal Nature. However, most of the primates can usually count up to six or seven numbers.

Dogs can count up to four or five objects and can notice tiny errors in calculations such as 1+1=3 or 1+1=1 as reported by the researchers from the American Medical Association in 2009. Cats have the ability to count up to three to five but a mother cat has the ability to count up to six or seven.

Lions have ability to count numbers and calculating the odds of winning a fight.

Well trained parrots can count up to 6 objects and Crow can count up to 3 numbers. Research has also shown that crows have good numerical ability.

Many more examples of mathematical abilities can be found in research data and will be done by time on different animals.

What we think important is that whether mathematics can be used to communicate and talk with the animals as a dialogue from the 1997 film “Contact” said

“Mathematics is the only true universal language.”

Consider, for the time being, that we can talk and understand aliens in mathematical language then why not try to understand what animals and insects want to say and try to tell them something mathematically.

One more interesting point to research is whether plants also do mathematical tasks as other living beings are doing or not. This is quiet possible because plants should have knowledge of the number of leaves, number of flowers and their petals, number of fruits and the number of seeds in them and the sizes of all of them and many more things like these.

One thing is showing their relationship to mathematics is the number of rings in their stems, which increases every year. Another thing is the ability of plants to move at certain degrees in the direction of light.

Plants may have the knowledge of their length, which can help in the food production for them. This could be an interesting topic of research.


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