Elephants Have Good Memory

Elephants are known for having excellent memory, and, as demonstrated for the first time in a study by Naoko Irie of Japan’s Graduate University for Advanced Studies, some of them can also count.

Irie taught an Asian elephant, named Authai, to use a touchscreen with her trunk. Authai was presented with two groups of 0-10 fruits on screen and had to select the group containing more with the tip of her trunk. The program was designed to rule out any other variables influencing Authai’s choices. For example, the fruits were displayed in different sizes to rule out Authai’s simply choosing the group which covered more space on the screen.

Out of 271 attempts, Authai chose correctly 181 times, a success rate of 66.8 percent. The researchers found that Authai’s accuracy in choosing groups was not affected by size, distance between groups or ratio of fruits. However, Authai’s reaction speed was influenced by the distance between groups and ratio of fruits, similar to observations of human counting ability.

Interestingly, Asian elephants may be the only species of elephant which possess this numeric ability. Asian and African elephant species split 7.6 million years ago, which could mean the two species of African elephant may not have developed the ability.

[Source: Treehugger, Science Daily]