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Estimating on the fly: the approximate number system in rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Author(s)

Mia Corliss, Theo Brown, T. Andrew Hurly, Susan D. Healy, Maria C. Tello-Ramos

School/Research organisations

Abstract

When presented with resources that differ in quantity, many animals use a numerosity system to discriminate between them. One taxonomically widespread system is the approximate number system. This is a numerosity system that allows the rapid evaluation of the number of objects in a group and which is regulated by Weber’s Law. Here we investigated whether wild, free-living rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) possess an approximate number system. The hummingbirds were presented with two experiments. In the first we investigated whether hummingbirds spontaneously chose an array containing more flowers than an alternate array. In the second we asked whether the hummingbirds could learn to use numerosity as a cue to which of two arrays contained the better reward. The birds did not spontaneously prefer an array containing more flowers. After minimal training, however, they learned to choose the more numerous array and could differentiate between arrays of five and seven flowers. These data support the presence of an approximate number system in the rufous hummingbird. It seems plausible that having such a system would enable much more efficient foraging in this species.
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Details

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalLearning and Behavior
VolumeFirst Online
Early online date14 Dec 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Dec 2020

    Research areas

  • Approximate number system, Foraging, Numerosity, Rufous hummingbird

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