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Adaptive numerical competence in a common song bird, the great tit (Parus major)

Rahman, SM Atiur (2015) BIOM01 20142
Degree Projects in Biology
Abstract
Considering numerical competency in the animal kingdom, primates are thought to be the most advanced ones. Many different studies have showed that also other species such as birds, fishes and amphibians are capable of counting objects and that this ability may be one of the most sophisticated key features for survival. Some lab experiments have revealed that given sufficient amount of training many animals can learn to separate numerical quantities. In contrast, my aim was to find out whether wild great tits (Parus major) are able to show their counting ability in a laboratory setting by choosing the larger amount from two different quantities. The birds were given the opportunity to choose between two different quantities of mealworms... (More)
Considering numerical competency in the animal kingdom, primates are thought to be the most advanced ones. Many different studies have showed that also other species such as birds, fishes and amphibians are capable of counting objects and that this ability may be one of the most sophisticated key features for survival. Some lab experiments have revealed that given sufficient amount of training many animals can learn to separate numerical quantities. In contrast, my aim was to find out whether wild great tits (Parus major) are able to show their counting ability in a laboratory setting by choosing the larger amount from two different quantities. The birds were given the opportunity to choose between two different quantities of mealworms offered simultaneously by entering either the right or the left compartment of an experimental cage. A correct choice meant that they then would enter the side that contained the larger amount of mealworms. After analysing the data, my results suggest that great tits are more prone to choose the higher quantity with accuracy when the total number of mealworms does not exceed four. Furthermore, it appears as if they can also judge and pick the correct side from two larger quantities if the ratio between them is large. Finally, my data also suggest that adaptability of numerical competence may differ largely due to differences in the birds personalities. (Less)
Popular Abstract
Numerical competence, or the ability to count objects, is considered to be a sophisticated key feature for animal survival. This natural behaviour has mostly been studied in primates but a variety of studies have shown that also other animals such as birds, fishes and amphibians are capable of separating numerical quantities. Some lab experiments with different species have revealed that given sufficient amount of training many animals are able to show numerical competence.
The great tit is a small passerine bird that belongs to the family Paridae. I have studied this species in a laboratory environment aiming to evaluate how large number sets it could distinguish between. I also had the additional aim to find out whether there were... (More)
Numerical competence, or the ability to count objects, is considered to be a sophisticated key feature for animal survival. This natural behaviour has mostly been studied in primates but a variety of studies have shown that also other animals such as birds, fishes and amphibians are capable of separating numerical quantities. Some lab experiments with different species have revealed that given sufficient amount of training many animals are able to show numerical competence.
The great tit is a small passerine bird that belongs to the family Paridae. I have studied this species in a laboratory environment aiming to evaluate how large number sets it could distinguish between. I also had the additional aim to find out whether there were performance differences between individual birds in this respect. My experimental arrangement was a laboratory setting where the birds were given opportunity to choose between two different quantities of mealworms that had been placed in the right or left compartment of an experimental cage. A correct choice meant that they would enter the side that contained the larger amount of food items.
The great tits were offered five predefined ratios (0.33, 0.50, 0.66, 0.75 and 0.80) in various number combinations ranging from 1 versus 2 to 8 versus 10 as choices. Each ratio and number combination was replicated six (6) times in a randomized pattern of both the order of presentation and how these should be presented in the right and left compartments. In each of the two compartments I had placed the mealworms in separate small petri dishes. The reason for this was that the birds should perceive this as a number of units (i.e. mealworms) rather than an aggregated clump of food.
My results were reasonably supportive to my hypothesis. To some degree great tits are capable to identify and discriminate between two numerical sets of food items (mealworms) in a typical laboratory set up. The results suggest that great tits are more prone to choose the higher quantity with accuracy when the total number of mealworms does not exceed four. Furthermore, it appears as if they can also judge and pick the correct side from two larger quantities if the ratio difference between them is large. Finally my data also suggest that the numerical competence may differ between individual birds.

Supervisor: Anders Brodin
MasterĀ“s Degree Project 30 credits in Animal Ecology
Department of Biology, Lund University. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Rahman, SM Atiur
supervisor
organization
course
BIOM01 20142
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
English
id
8832484
date added to LUP
2016-03-02 11:29:54
date last changed
2016-03-02 11:29:54
@misc{8832484,
  abstract     = {Considering numerical competency in the animal kingdom, primates are thought to be the most advanced ones. Many different studies have showed that also other species such as birds, fishes and amphibians are capable of counting objects and that this ability may be one of the most sophisticated key features for survival. Some lab experiments have revealed that given sufficient amount of training many animals can learn to separate numerical quantities. In contrast, my aim was to find out whether wild great tits (Parus major) are able to show their counting ability in a laboratory setting by choosing the larger amount from two different quantities. The birds were given the opportunity to choose between two different quantities of mealworms offered simultaneously by entering either the right or the left compartment of an experimental cage. A correct choice meant that they then would enter the side that contained the larger amount of mealworms. After analysing the data, my results suggest that great tits are more prone to choose the higher quantity with accuracy when the total number of mealworms does not exceed four. Furthermore, it appears as if they can also judge and pick the correct side from two larger quantities if the ratio between them is large. Finally, my data also suggest that adaptability of numerical competence may differ largely due to differences in the birds personalities.},
  author       = {Rahman, SM Atiur},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Adaptive numerical competence in a common song bird, the great tit (Parus major)},
  year         = {2015},
}