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Fish Master Math

Who would have thought that fish could count? Learn all about their math skills!

Previously, people didn’t suspect that fish would be good at math. But one study has shown: even fish can count! These animals were unfairly underestimated for too long.

Can Fish Count?

It might not be for us humans (mostly ;)). But the ability to count (to add up) properly is part of a well developed intellect. This skill is much more common in mammals. Not just chimpanzees can do it. Even gorillas, Capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys, lemurs, dolphins and elephants can count. A couple of birds are also part of the “math club”: e.g. ravens, cormorants and robins. What Scientists were interested to know was: Do fish just compare amounts or do they really count?

Mosquitofish Mosquitofish - Photo: topimages/Shutterstock


Fish Are Intelligent

In an experiment, ten social mosquitofish were put in a tank of water. One of two doors led to a larger tank full of more mosquitofish. However: they only made it back to their school when they swam through the door with the right number of symbols on it. To prevent the fish from simply using a certain size of object as orientation, the researchers used a clever method: the number of symbols was always the same, but they differed each time in shape, size, brightness and distance. The mosquitofish weren’t confused, and chose the right door.

Insects Can Count, too

Really? Yes. As well as mammals and fish, there is another animal class that can count: insects. We know about ants that count their steps to orient themselves in the desert. But bees can count too! Isn’t that incredible?


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