Bears can count

In news that bears repeating, scientists have shown that bears can differentiate between larger and smaller numbers of dots on a computer screen. That's right, bears can count and use computers, and this may just barely scratch the surface of what they're capable of.

Three American black bears have been taught by scientists (who clearly have no regard for long-term consequences) to differentiate between groups of differently colored dots on a computer screen. The size of the dots were varied such that sometimes there were fewer dots of a larger size (and representing a larger total area), but the bears weren't fooled. Even when the dots were moving around, the hulking, furry users in the study were still about to pick out which screen on the computer had a larger number.

What's interesting here (besides the fact that BEARS CAN COUNT) is that most animals with similar cognitive abilities, including humans, monkeys, parrots and dolphins, are highly social. It's not a coincidence: there seems to be a significant correlation between animals that hang out in large interactive groups and animals that develop skills in counting, object recognition, and even language.

Bears, however, are not social at all, but they nonetheless turn out to be just as good at this dot-picking task as monkeys are, which obviously means that one day, we could have bears in space.

Animal Behavior, via ScienceMag

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