Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Black bears show counting skills on computers

Black bears have demonstrated counting abilities, in a first for the species.
Three captive bears took a series of number-based tests on a touch-screen computer, research published in the journal Animal Behaviour showed.
They had to choose between two different-sized sets of dots and were rewarded with food for correct answers.
"People don't generally understand them to be as intelligent as they probably are," said Jennifer Vonk, the researcher who led the study.
Although bears have the largest relative brain size of any carnivore, their cognition is not well understood.
Dr Vonk, an assistant professor in psychology at Oakland University said that the North American black bears were first trained to understand the process and equipment involved in the tests.
"This is the first published work with bears working on a touch screen," she said. "It hasn't been done with any large carnivores."
The experiment then involved presenting the bears with two sets of dots or "arrays".
"Basically we were looking to see if they can understand to choose less or choose more," she said.
They touched the screen to select one or other of the arrays, and were given food if they got the answer right.
One bear was rewarded for touching the screen with a greater number dots, and for the other two bears, a correct answer was an array with a fewer number of dots.

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