Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford


  • Rosa RuganiEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1490-1


Performing subtractions requires the capability to estimate the resulting difference between a first number, or quantity, minus a second one.


In the field of animal numerical cognition, the capability to master subtraction is considered a complex numerical capacity, because it requires a manipulation of at least two numerical representations to produce a new representation (Vallortigara et al. 2010). The capability to subtract, together with the capability to perform additions, is the only arithmetic ability which has been proved in animals.

Arithmetic has been mainly investigated in animals for what concerns physical sets of objects. Animals’ arithmetic abilities differ from humans’ abstract arithmetic calculations. The latter are based on a complex system of symbols which refers to numbers and operation that can be performed on numbers, for example, 45–27 = 18. Hence, these can be defined symbolic-numerical abilities. Nonsymbolic numbers refer to the...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PaduaPaduaItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Dawson Clary
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ManitobaWinnipegCanada