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Do cuttlefish have fraction number sense?

  • Yi-Huei Huang
  • Hsu-Jung Lin
  • Li-Yu Lin
  • Chuan-Chin ChiaoEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Number sense is a key cognitive function in animals. The biological functions of number discrimination have a wide range, including the selection of prey and social interaction. In a previous study, we have shown that cuttlefish are able to distinguish numerical differences among various integers, including 1 vs. 2, 2 vs. 3, 3 vs. 4, and 4 vs. 5. However, it is not known whether cuttlefish are able to discriminate various fractions, that is, various non-integer numbers. In addition, no study on invertebrates has examined fraction number sense. Using the active preying behavior of cuttlefish (Sepia pharaonis), we investigated the spontaneous preference for larger quantity by presenting two-alternative choice between 1 vs. 1.5, 1.5 vs. 2, 2 vs. 2.5, and 2.5 vs. 3. In this context, the quantity1.5 is composed of one large shrimp and one small shrimp, in which the size of the small shrimp is one-half of that of the large shrimp. The result shows that the cuttlefish chose larger quantity in the first three pairs, but they could not distinguish the pair 2.5 vs. 3. Despite that the absolute differences in these pairs are the same (0.5), the relative differences in these pairs decrease (0.5, 0.33, 0.25, and 0.2, respectively). This implies that the perceived difference in quantity is proportional to the initial quantity (Weber’s law). Although the present study does not truly differentiate the number difference from the quantity difference, this result does raise the possibility that cuttlefish may be equipped with the primitive concept of fractions, and if so, the perceived just noticeable difference is similar for both integer and fraction number discrimination.

Keywords

Number discrimination Common fractions Weber fractions 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Ms. Tzu-Hsin Kuo for helping with the experiments and discussing the results with us. We thank Dr. Te-Hua Hsu and Mr. Yao-Chen Lee for collecting the cuttlefish eggs from Keelung and Gongliao. We also appreciate Ms. Ting-Chia Hsu at the National Hsinchu Girls’ Senior High School for encouraging YHH, HJL, and LYL to pursue this project.

Funding

This study was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan (Grant number MOST-106-2311-B-007-010-MY3).

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of interest

All authors (YH Huang, HJ Lin, LY Lin, and CC Chiao) declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Hsinchu Girls’ Senior High SchoolHsin-chuTaiwan
  2. 2.Institute of Systems NeuroscienceNational Tsing Hua UniversityHsin-chuTaiwan
  3. 3.Department of Life ScienceNational Tsing Hua UniversityHsin-chuTaiwan

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