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Counting on Numbers—Numerical Abilities in Grey Bamboo Sharks and Ocellate River Stingrays

Institute of Zoology, University of Bonn, Poppelsdorfer Schloss, Meckenheimerallee 169, 53115 Bonn, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Tyrone Lucon-Xiccato
Animals 2021, 11(9), 2634;
Received: 2 July 2021 / Revised: 5 August 2021 / Accepted: 18 August 2021 / Published: 8 September 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Progress in Fish Cognition and Behaviour)
This study examined the quantitative discrimination abilities (using two-dimensional objects) in a shark and a stingray species. Both species underwent a training procedure, followed by a series of transfer tests designed to investigate whether they could extrapolate and apply learned knowledge to a set of new quantity discrimination tasks. Sharks and rays successfully mastered the training tasks as well as most of the transfer tests. This included the discrimination of 4:1, 5:2 and 7:5. The present study is the first to describe numerical abilities in elasmobranchs, in which any potentially confounding, non-numerical factors (e.g., size and area) were controlled for. This study adds to the growing number of studies on fish that are key to understand the evolution and development of cognition in vertebrates.
Over the last decade, studies examining the cognitive abilities of fish have increased, using a broad range of approaches. One of the foci has been to test the ability of fish to discriminate quantities of items and to determine whether fish can solve tasks solely on the basis of numerical information. This study is the first to investigate this ability in two elasmobranch species. All animals were trained in two-alternative forced-choice visual experiments and then examined in transfer tests, to determine if previously gained knowledge could be applied to new tasks. Results show that the grey bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium griseum) and the ocellate river stingray (Potamotrygon motoro) can discriminate quantities based on numerical information alone, while continuous variables were controlled for. Furthermore, the data indicates that similar magnitudes and limits for quantity discrimination exist as in other animals. However, the high degree of intraspecific variation that was observed as well as the low rate of animals proving to be successful suggest that the ability to discriminate quantities may not be as important to these species as to some other vertebrate and invertebrate species tested so far. View Full-Text
Keywords: cognition; visual discrimination; elasmobranch; quantity discrimination cognition; visual discrimination; elasmobranch; quantity discrimination
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MDPI and ACS Style

Kreuter, N.; Christofzik, N.; Niederbremer, C.; Bollé, J.; Schluessel, V. Counting on Numbers—Numerical Abilities in Grey Bamboo Sharks and Ocellate River Stingrays. Animals 2021, 11, 2634.

AMA Style

Kreuter N, Christofzik N, Niederbremer C, Bollé J, Schluessel V. Counting on Numbers—Numerical Abilities in Grey Bamboo Sharks and Ocellate River Stingrays. Animals. 2021; 11(9):2634.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Kreuter, Nils, Nele Christofzik, Carolin Niederbremer, Janik Bollé, and Vera Schluessel. 2021. "Counting on Numbers—Numerical Abilities in Grey Bamboo Sharks and Ocellate River Stingrays" Animals 11, no. 9: 2634.

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