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Chicks do arithmetic

Recently hatched fowls appear to add and subtract

Count your chickens after they hatch, and they may do a little arithmetic themselves.

Chicks only 3 or 4 days old manage an animal version of adding and subtracting, says Rosa Rugani of the University of Trento Center for Mind/Brain Sciences in Rovereto, Italy.

Inspired by experiments with human babies, Rugani and her colleagues worked out tests based on adding objects to and taking them away from little piles behind screens. With no special math coaching, the chicks did a decent job of keeping track of object shifts representing such problems as 4 – 2 = 2 and 1 + 2 = 3, she and her colleagues report online March 31 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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