PerspectiveORGANISMAL BIOLOGY

Honey bees zero in on the empty set

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Science  08 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6393, pp. 1069-1070
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat8958

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  • RE: Understanding the concept of null

    Dear authors:

    The discoveries in regards to the ability of animals to understand numerical concepts have made great contributions to science and society. Nonetheless, I assume that animals other than monkeys, birds, and bees can have such a numerical conceptualizing ability including understanding of an empty set.

    Numerical conceptualization stems from the observations of gain (positive number/addition) or loss (negative number/subtraction). Humans have created numbers as well as the most simple mathematical operations such as addition and subtraction based on those observations.

    Animals can be assumed to have such observations as well. They may observe gains and losses in the daily food-seeking activities. They may gain more food or lose food to enemies. They may lose more peers to the mouths of enemies on the food-seeking journeys. They add more food to their inventory to survive the severity of the weather. They may also lose their food due to unexpected disasters.

    Their basic instinct to survive can be assumed to motivate them to gain (or "add") more and more to enhance their survival chances. In the experiments on the ability of honey bees to understand the concept of zero, honey bees were trained to link "fewer shapes" with "more delicious food" ("no shapes" with "most delicious food") and link "more shapes" with "bitter food" (unfavorable conditions). This looks like...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.