North American black bears have the largest relative brain size of all carnivores, and apparently they are capable of using that brain power to count. Scientists tested three bears on their ability to look at groups of dots and identify whether one group had fewer or more dots than another. (Two bears were looking for “fewer,” and the other was looking for “more.”) Turns out, they could tell the difference, which means they can count, or anyway do some bear-brain counting-like thing. It’s not like they understand what a “five” is, but they know how many of things there are.
Because scientists are tricksy, they “varied the pattern of the dots and the shaded area on which the arrays were shown, and in some tests the dots were also moving,” the BBC reports. These changes helped the scientists determine that bears were doing something like counting, instead of judging the magnitude of one group over the other. (Scientists are very careful about counting animals because of that horse that one time.)
We suspected all along that bears were sitting on the side of forest streams thinking “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.” Now we are certain.
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