Author(s): Piffer L, Miletto Petrazzini ME, Agrillo C
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Abstract Quantitative abilities have been reported in a wide range of species, including fish. Recent studies have shown that adult guppies (Poecilia reticulata) can spontaneously select the larger number of conspecifics. In particular the evidence collected in literature suggest the existence of two distinct systems of number representation: a precise system up to 4 units, and an approximate system for larger numbers. Spontaneous numerical abilities, however, seem to be limited to 4 units at birth and it is currently unclear whether or not the large number system is absent during the first days of life. In the present study, we investigated whether newborn guppies can be trained to discriminate between large quantities. Subjects were required to discriminate between groups of dots with a 0.50 ratio (e.g., 7 vs. 14) in order to obtain a food reward. To dissociate the roles of number and continuous quantities that co-vary with numerical information (such as cumulative surface area, space and density), three different experiments were set up: in Exp. 1 number and continuous quantities were simultaneously available. In Exp. 2 we controlled for continuous quantities and only numerical information was available; in Exp. 3 numerical information was made irrelevant and only continuous quantities were available. Subjects successfully solved the tasks in Exp. 1 and 2, providing the first evidence of large number discrimination in newborn fish. No discrimination was found in experiment 3, meaning that number acuity is better than spatial acuity. A comparison with the onset of numerical abilities observed in shoal-choice tests suggests that training procedures can promote the development of numerical abilities in guppies.
This article was published in PLoS One
and referenced in Brain Disorders & Therapy