Monkeys are able to perform math at a fairly advanced level, according to new research. Margaret Livingstone at Harvard Medical School led the investigation showing rhesus macaques are able to perform mathematical tasks. The last common ancestor of that primate and humans lived 25 million years ago.
Rhesus monkeys were taught to associate 26 symbols -- the numbers 0 to 9, plus 16 letters of the Latin alphabet -- to represent the numbers 10 to 25. The primates were then given the opportunity to select how many drops of a liquid treat to drink. They responded by selecting the higher number up to 90 percent of the time.
"[T]hey were performing a calculation, not just memorizing the value of each combination," researchers wrote in the article detailing their discovery.
Several animal species are also able to tell which of two clusters of dots has a greater number of marks. This shows the ability to count, and the notion of "greater" versus "lesser."
Dolphins could use complex mathematics to hunt, according to a 2012 study. The Dolphin Research Center in Florida also reports that the marine mammals are able to process complex mathematical ideas.
Chimpanzees have been recorded performing simple mathematical tasks, in an experiment that looked to see if the primates could add together the number of chocolates in a pair of bowls.
In 2011, it was found that pigeons possess a wide range of mathematical skills, including the ability to learn abstract rules of mathematics. Only human beings and rhesus monkeys were known to perform better than pigeons at these tasks.
Even chickens as young as three days old can count and compare numbers. When researchers showed balls to chicks, then hid some behind screens, and displayed the remainder, chickens could add and subtract to determine where the balls were hidden.
Cataglyphis fortis is an ant which lives in the deserts of Tunisia. This tiny creature is able to perform simple geometry. Ants generally use chemical trails and visual landmarks to guide them in journeys to and from their home. In the desert, neither of these methods is effective. Instead, C. fortis remembers which direction it traveled, and calculates the most direct route back to the colony.
Not all claims of the mathematical abilities of animals turn out to be real. Clever Hans was a horse who lived in the early 20th century. His owner, Wilhelm von Osten, claimed Hans could answer complex questions using hoof taps. Careful examination in 1907 revealed Hans was reacting to subtle body language of his human questioners. Today, that possibility in tests is known as the "Clever Hans effect."