BEE NUMBER: The Biological Bases of Bee Numerosity


The biological or cultural origin of the sophisticated mathematical skills of Humans is still debated. While most characteristics of our number representation are shared by other Vertebrates, it is difficult to arbitrate between an inherited ancestral system or convergent systems. The evolutionary distance with honeybees offers a unique opportunity to study the similarities and differences of numerical systems that evolved independently.

Building on the current evidence of the bees’ numerical skills, the project will explore the mechanisms of number processing in bees and the level of abstraction involved. To what extent bees could fulfil the true counting criteria? Do they possess an independent system to recognize high numbers as Vertebrates do? Could we find neurons in the bee brain that act as number detector as in primate and corvid brains? The answers will offer key elements to feed the debate of a universality of number processing mechanisms by a brain.


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