At this rate, a monkey might very well prove the Riemann hypothesis (the one with monkeys and Shakespeare). Rhesus macaques have been shown to possess yet another talent once thought to be unique to humans. They can count audible beeps and dots on a computer screen. Put a check next to counting for the monkey skills column.
Rhesus (Not Reeses) Macaques
“Their ability to comprehend numbers not as just discrete images or sounds, but as abstract representations that can be combined suggests that such maths skills aren’t unique to humans,” says Kerry Jordan, a psychologist at Utah State University, Logan, US, who led the new study.
This sort of evidence shows that animals have these precursors to math very early on in the evolutionary line and early on in development. Scientists at Duke University trained two eight-year-old macaques to equate beeps to dots on a computer screen. So if a monkey heard seven beeps, it tapped a square on the screen displaying seven dots.
Next, the researchers tested the monkeys’ training in adding dots and beeps together. The animals were presented dots flashing onto a screen and a number of tones. To determine if the monkeys could combine the two, Jordan and Brannon showed the animals a screen with two numerical choices, represented as dots – one the correct sum, one incorrect. The monkeys passed their exam with a score of 72%. Most of the time, the monkey’s mistakes were made when the numerical answers were close like 7 and 8 rather than 1 and 8.