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The crows know how to count... out loud!

Research shows that crows can intentionally produce up to four vocalizations in response to specific cues, indicating a non-symbolic number system and vocal control similar to that of human infants. This ability offers an evolutionary basis for numerical understanding before the development of symbolic counting

the call of the crow. Illustration:
the call of the crow. Illustration:

Crows can "count" out loud to four in response to cues, showing complex vocal control similar to that of young children.

Researchers have discovered that crows can control the number of sounds they make, and actually "count" to four in response to cues. These findings indicate that crows are able to use a non-symbolic number system and exhibit a level of vocal control similar to the early counting skills of human toddlers.

Comparisons between toddlers and animals in counting

Counting out loud, such as "one, two, three", requires an understanding of numerical quantities and deliberate vocal control. Humans develop the ability to count symbolically and communicate quantities in early childhood.

Before they master symbolic counting, in which specific words refer to specific quantities, toddlers often produce several speech sounds corresponding to the number of objects they see, and use these sounds as acoustic cues to convey the appropriate quantity. This early behavior in humans reflects non-symbolic abilities that have also been observed in animals.

Several animals can differentiate between varying amounts of objects and communicate using different numbers of sounds. However, whether non-human animals can "count" by producing a number of directed sounds remains an open question.

A study on numerical ability in crows

A team of researchers led by Diana Leo studied whether crows (Corvus corone) - one of the few species of birds that possess numerical ability and directed vocal control - can control the number of sounds they produce to solve complex vocal response tasks.

The researchers trained three crows to produce one to four calls in response to visual (colored numbers) and auditory (different sounds) cues that were associated with numerical values. In each trial, the crows had to produce a number of target sounds and mark the end of the sequence of sounds by pecking at the target.

results and consequences

The study showed that crows can purposefully produce a specific number of vocalizations in response to specific cues, a level of control not previously observed in other animals. According to the findings, the birds used an approximate non-symbolic number system, and planned the number of calls before they started.

Further analysis showed that the timing and features of the initial voice predicted the number of subsequent voices, and different acoustic features in the voices indicated the "number" within a given sequence. "This ability in crows also reflects the counting skills of toddlers before they learn to understand cardinal number words and therefore may be an evolutionary ancestor of true counting where numbers are part of an integrated symbol system," explained the researchers.

for the scientific article

More of the topic in Hayadan:

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