A news site about animals

Monkeys Do Advanced Math

Rhesus monkeys are able to perform math at an advanced level, reports a study this week from Harvard Medical Medical school. Monkeys can use symbols to add: a finding that sheds light on the evolutionary origins of math.

The monkeys were able to determine a greater value for food rewards (water, juice or orange soda) after learning to recognize numerals 0 to 9 and 16 letters. 


Humans possess a sophisticated combination of mathematical capabilities unmatched in the animal kingdom. Still, there is increasing evidence that at least some of these abilities are shared with other species. For instance, many animals can figure out which of two clusters of dots is larger or smaller.


To see how far back more advanced capabilities such as addition might go, scientists focused on somewhat distant relatives of humans: rhesus monkeys. While the ancestors of chimpanzees —humanity’s closest living relatives — diverged from humans about 6 million years ago, humans and rhesus monkeys parted ways roughly 25 million years ago. Both animals and humans can estimate how many items there are in a group, and the precision of these estimates decreases the more items there are.


The scientists taught three rhesus monkeys the values of 26 distinct symbols — the 10 Arabic numerals, and 16 letters. Each symbol was associated with zero to 25 drops of a reward of water, juice or orange soda. Given the choice of two different symbols, the monkeys chose the symbol that represented the larger reward with up to 90 percent accuracy. This suggested the monkeys learned to distinguish the symbols and assign them specific values, Livingstone said.


“The monkeys want the most of whatever is out there, and this is just one of many ways to figure out the best way to get the most,” she said.


The researchers then showed the monkeys pairs of symbols that yielded a reward equal to the added value of the symbols. The monkeys learned to add the values represented by the pairs of symbols to maximize their reward.


“They turned out to be like us — more accurate when values were represented by symbols than by the number of dots,” Livingstone said. “It tells us what good symbols are.”

To confirm the monkeys were performing a calculation and not just memorizing the value of each pair of symbols, the scientists next trained the monkeys to recognize another set of 26 symbols, each made of different clusters of four or five squares. The monkeys immediately applied their ability to add to these new symbols. The monkeys showed less accuracy with these new symbols than with the previous symbols, presumably because they were less familiar with the new symbols, Livingstone said.


“The monkeys did not memorize the addition of pairs of numerals; they just fairly accurately combined two symbols,” Livingstone said. The scientists detailed their findings online today (April 21) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


In future studies with the monkeys, “we will ask whether they can learn to multiply,” Livingstone said. Such research could shed more light on how the monkeys think about numbers.


Happy Monkday :_)


Earth Day With Polar Bears

In St. Paul, Minnesota, Como Zoo’s two polar bears, Buzz and Neil, are going global this Earth Day on a live broadcast around the world, and you can check it out.


The bears will take part in what could be called a worldwide play date. It’s available through the Tundra Connections Hangout and hosted by Polar Bear International.



B.J. Kirschhoffer, with Polar Bears International, said “it’s a good opportunity for people of all ages to look at the animals and how they interact with each other.”


This Earth Day, the polar bear’s biggest threat is climate change.  Kirschhoffer said it’s a unique species that we can protect by making small changes in our lives.


If you’re interested in watching, you have to register online but it’s all free. Watch it live here.

Injured Silverthorne Moose Calf is Out of the Woods

Wednesday, April 16 marks the two-and-a-half-week point since a calf moose was found injured along the banks of the Blue River in Silverthorne, CO. The now-notorious youngster appears to be doing well and is on his way to making a full recovery.


In recent days, the calf and mother moose have been seen venturing at increasingly greater distances to the north through Silverthorne, but continue to return to the protective sanctuary along the banks of the Blue River.




“He has a very obvious limp, but he’s getting increasingly more mobile every day,” said Parks & Wildlife district wildlife manager Elissa Knox. The cow and calf “have plenty to eat in town and he’s eating, drinking and moving around just like he should be.”


Despite public concern about a perceived lack of action from Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials, the calf has many factors working in his favor, Knox said, which was why, in addition to the obvious danger of trying to separate it from his mother,  officials wanted to see first if the calf would begin to exhibit signs of a recovery, before they attempted any human intervention.


Among those positive factors are the fact that the calf sustained a totally closed fracture, meaning there is no break in the skin, which also significantly reduces the chances of an infection. The calf also is still growing, Knox said, which provides a higher chance of recovery than an older moose because his bones are still developing.


The Silverthorne Police Department has been assisting Parks & Wildlife officials by closing sections of the Blue River Trail to minimize human interaction. Knox is asking residents to respect those closures and to continue to keep their distances, not just for the moose’s safety, but also for their own.


“Moose are tolerant of people to a point, but they’re beginning to show signs of agitation when people or cars get too close,” Knox said. “There’s a lot of moose activity in Silverthorne in addition to these two by the Blue River,” Knox said. “People can encounter moose anywhere in town including on trails and bike paths, which is why it is so important for the public to be safe.”


In addition to the injured calf and cow near the Blue River, Knox said a moose sighting was reported last week near Banana Republic at the Outlets at Silverthorne. A second moose was sighted Thursday, April 10 on Interstate 70 between Frisco and Silverthorne.



As a reminder, signs of moose aggression include licking of the snout, ears pinned back and raised hairs on the back, Knox said. A moose walking slowly towards people also should be interpreted as an act or potential act of aggression.



Should anyone encounter a moose in town or on one of Summit County’s many trails, Knox said it is important to stay at a safe distance and make sure the moose has an escape route. Should a moose charge, locals are advised to put something big, like a tree, boulder or a car, between themselves and the animal.


Happy Humpday (^_^)