Counting on Numbers-Numerical Abilities in Grey Bamboo Sharks and Ocellate River Stingrays

Animals (Basel). 2021 Sep 8;11(9):2634. doi: 10.3390/ani11092634.


Over the last decade, studies examining the cognitive abilities of fish have increased, using a broad range of approaches. One of the foci has been to test the ability of fish to discriminate quantities of items and to determine whether fish can solve tasks solely on the basis of numerical information. This study is the first to investigate this ability in two elasmobranch species. All animals were trained in two-alternative forced-choice visual experiments and then examined in transfer tests, to determine if previously gained knowledge could be applied to new tasks. Results show that the grey bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium griseum) and the ocellate river stingray (Potamotrygon motoro) can discriminate quantities based on numerical information alone, while continuous variables were controlled for. Furthermore, the data indicates that similar magnitudes and limits for quantity discrimination exist as in other animals. However, the high degree of intraspecific variation that was observed as well as the low rate of animals proving to be successful suggest that the ability to discriminate quantities may not be as important to these species as to some other vertebrate and invertebrate species tested so far.

Keywords: cognition; elasmobranch; quantity discrimination; visual discrimination.