The Egyptians and Babylonians show evidence of using arithmetic around 2000BCE, which would have been useful - for example - to count live stock and calculate new numbers when cattle were sold off. Using color-coded shapes, the researchers found that honeybees can be taught simple arithmetic and solve mathematical problems.
Researchers at RMIT have succeeded in teaching honeybees to do simple addition and subtraction in their heads, mid flight.
Researchers say that solving maths problems involves being able to manage numbers, and to use you long-term and short-term memory.
RMIT's Associate Professor Adrian Dyer said numerical operations such as adding and subtracting are "complex" because they require two levels of processing. Clint Perry, who studies invertebrate intelligence at the Bee Sensory and Behavioral Ecology Lab at Queen Mary University of London tells George Dvorsky at Gizmodo that he's not convinced by the research, and he had similar qualms about the study that suggested bees can understand the concept of zero.
The researchers found that overall, they chose the correct option in the decision chamber 60 to 75 percent of the time, leading the team to the conclusion that more animals than previously believed might be capable of numerical cognition. This suggests there may be new ways to incorporate interactions of both long-term rules and working memory into designs to improve rapid AI learning of new problems.More news: Petra Kvitova: Tennis star tells court of knife attack horror
There is "considerable debate surrounding the ability of animals to have or learn complex number skills", researchers said in the study.
But numerical cognition, such as exact number and arithmetic operations, requires a more "sophisticated" level of processing.
Previous research indicated that vervet monkeys, chimpanzees, orangutans, rhesus monkeys, African gray parrots, pigeons and even spiders could understand mathematical operations, such as addition or subtraction.
The findings have been published in the journal of Science Advances. The honeybees were made to visit a Y-shaped maze where they were either rewarded with sugar water if their answer is correct or quinine solution if their answer is wrong.
Honeybees will go back to a place if the location provides a good source of food, so the bees returned repeatedly to the experimental set-up to collect nutrition and continue learning. If the shapes were blue, they needed to fly toward the picture containing one additional shape. Although the scientists restricted their test to addition or subtraction of the number one, they said it demonstrated a bee's ability to understand abstract concepts.
The bees would then choose either the left or right branch where two answers were represented.More news: Virginia governor line of succession: 3 scandals raise resignation que
More shapes presented at the mouth of each fork represented the correct and incorrect answer to the problem.
At first, the bees made random choices, but they eventually worked out the problem. After over 100 trials, the bees learned that blue meant +1 and yellow meant -1.
Although the ability to perform arithmetic like adding and subtracting is not simple, it is vital in human societies.
As children, we learn that a plus symbol (+) means we have to add two or more quantities, while a minus symbol (-) means we have to subtract quantities from each other.
"Our findings show that the complex understanding of maths symbols as a language is something that many brains can probably achieve", she said. It costs a lot to produce.
We do not charge or put articles behind a paywall.More news: Miguel Almiron addresses English media for first time since record deal