Report

Numerical ordering of zero in honey bees

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  08 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6393, pp. 1124-1126
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar4975

You are currently viewing the abstract.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

Understanding zero

It has been said that the development of an understanding of zero by society initiated a major intellectual advance in humans, and we have been thought to be unique in this understanding. Although recent research has shown that some other vertebrates understand the concept of the “empty set,” Howard et al. now show that an understanding of this concept is present in untrained honey bees (see the Perspective by Nieder). This finding suggests that such an understanding has evolved independently in distantly related species that deal with complexity in their environments, and that it may be more widespread than previously appreciated.

Science, this issue p. 1124; see also p. 1069

Abstract

Some vertebrates demonstrate complex numerosity concepts—including addition, sequential ordering of numbers, or even the concept of zero—but whether an insect can develop an understanding for such concepts remains unknown. We trained individual honey bees to the numerical concepts of “greater than” or “less than” using stimuli containing one to six elemental features. Bees could subsequently extrapolate the concept of less than to order zero numerosity at the lower end of the numerical continuum. Bees demonstrated an understanding that parallels animals such as the African grey parrot, nonhuman primates, and even preschool children.

View Full Text