Bees join an exclusive crew of animals that get the concept of zero | Science News

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Bees join an exclusive crew of animals that get the concept of zero

Honeybees can pass a test of ranking ‘nothing’ as less than one

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4:58pm, June 7, 2018
honeybee experiment

BEE CHOSES NOTHING  Bees show some sense of the idea of zero, researchers say. Tests required the insects to choose between images with various numbers of dark shapes.

A little brain can be surprisingly good at nothing. Honeybees are the first invertebrates to pass a test of recognizing where zero goes in numerical order, a new study finds.

Even small children struggle with recognizing “nothing” as being less than one, says cognitive behavioral scientist Scarlett Howard of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. But honeybees trained to fly to images of greater or fewer dots or whazzits tended to rank a blank image as less than one, Howard and colleagues report in the June 8 Science.

Despite decades of discoveries, nonhuman animals still don’t get due credit outside specialist circles for intelligence, laments Lars Chittka of Queen Mary University of London, who has explored various mental capacities of bees. For the world at large, he emphasizes that the abilities described in the new paper are “remarkable.

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