These scientists from Toulouse have shown that bees sort numbers from left to right

These scientists from Toulouse have shown that bees sort numbers from left to right
Bees, like humans, can order dimensions in space: this is what a researcher from Toulouse has demonstrated. (© Corentin Gouriou)

Smaller numbers on the left, larger numbers on the right. A researcher Toulouse It has now been demonstrated that, like humans, bees transpose scales from left to right, in ascending order.

They know how to count to 5

“We already knew that bees can count up to at least 5,” explains Martin Giurfa, professor of neuroscience at the university. Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier and co-author of the study. They are remarkable insects capable of learning and memorizing, with a sophisticated social organization and elaborate communication codes. »

Martin Guerfa and his co-authors chose to question the knowledge of bees even more. Digital mental tax.

Digital mental tax

“Humans Align the sizes in ascending order from left to right, explains the Toulouse researcher. Because the West learns to write from left to right, and this numerical mind line is not so clear in right-to-left cultures, it has long been attributed to culture. »

However, recent studies have shown that two-month-olds, whose cultural context has not yet caught up, have a numerical mind line. “Of course culture can subtly or accentuate the digital mind line, but there is an inherent element. »

Martin Guerfa and his colleagues decided to investigate: Does the bee, which has a lateral brain with two hemispheres, like humans, have a numerical mind line?

Experiments with images

To find out, the researchers trained bees to retrieve a sugar solution from a box An image with a fixed number of itemsIts nature is different: circles, squares, triangles.

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The bees faced two identical pictures showing the same number of objects on the left. Bees tested with value 3 in the first phase were tested with a single object, placed to the left and right, and then with a picture containing 5 objects, following the same procedure.

“Humans aren’t that special!” »

“Bees tested with these new sizes prefer to go to the image of the value 1 on their left and 5 on the right,” explains Martin Guerfa. This ability to connect space and scale tends to demonstrate that bees, like humans, have a numerical mind line: invertebrates. Spatial representation of numbers.

“This work shows us once again that humans are highly specialized and no different from other species in some cognitive abilities, which in the case of bees we take for granted. So these results should help change our view of the species that share our environment, and protect this environment and their survival.” Lead to more responsible practices.

Martin Guerfa

The results of this study, conducted by Martin Giurfa and his co-authors, have now been published In the journal Pnas.

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