SYMPOSIUM: Numerical competence from ants to apes
(Behaviour - 2013, Newcastle)
Organizers: Zhanna Reznikova, Michael J. Beran, Christian Agrillo
Basic number-related skills, that is, knowledge of quantities and their relations, are one of the most intriguing domains of animal behaviour. However, we are still lacking an adequate ‘language’ for a comparative analysis. Until recently it was widely believed that the main difficulty in comparing numerical abilities in humans and other species is that number-related skills in our species are closely connected with our capacity for language and symbolic representation. However, comparative and developmental research has shown that numerical abilities predate verbal language. There is a growing body of evidence that members of many species can judge about proportions and numbers of things, sounds, time intervals, smells, and so on. The similar performances often observed across such diverse species have led to the hypothesis that there may be shared core systems underlying number abilities of non-human species and humans. Thus, animal models could provide useful insight on our comprehension of numerical cognition, and in particular the evolution of non-verbal numerical abilities.
We bring together different studies on these issues and thus to contribute to a more complete picture of numerical competence in the absence of language. The contributors present data on different levels of numerical competence, including estimations of proportions, subitizing, proto-counting, based on studies on apes, monkeys, bears, birds, spiders, fish, ants, honey bees, and human infants.
SYMPOSIUM: Do ants ape? A comparative perspective of social learning
ROUND TABLE: A multifaceted panorama of social learning: From ants to apes
at the 31st International Ethological Conference,
Rennes, France, August 19 - 24, 2009.
Invited lecture at the ESF Workshop "Evolution of Social Cognition: Comparisons and integration across a wide range of human and non-human animal species (CompCog)",
Prague, April 20 - 21, 2009, Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Education, Czech Republic:
"Different species, different cultures: distributed social learning as an alternative explanation"
Invited lecture at the Summer School of Human and Animal Ethology, Charles University in Prague, April 18-20, 2009, Faculty of Education, Czech Republic: "Cultural and non-cultural animals"
Siberian Summer School on Human Ethology (Novosibirsk),
Report in: Human Ethology Bulletin, 2008
SYMPOSIUM: Social learning: from ants to apes (I,II) at International Ethological Conference, 15 - 23 August 2007 Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Social learning: from ants to apes
Social learning plays an important role in the processes of "tuning" behaviour in group-living species and in those that live mostly solitary but have contacts with relatives at early stage of ontogenesis. Readiness to gain information from conspecifics reflects both the conformity prevailing in animals' society and the flexibility that enables animals to improve their individual behaviour in changeable environment.
Invited lecture at the ESF Workshop "Towards "real" comparative social cognition: Integrating theories, terminology and methods across a wide range of human and non-human animal species", Alsoors, Hungary, 4 - 8 October 2006:
"Cognitive specialisation and social learning in social insects: the formula of happiness in animal communities"
Workshop: Spatial Intelligence at XXIX International Ethological Conference, 20-27 August 2005. Budapest, Hungary.
For many species spatial navigation is one of major problems to be solved every day for survival. Some species undertake extremely long-distance travels such as the Arctic tern migrating from the North Pole to the South Pole, while others such as some invertebrate species do not move away from their native place further than an inch. Distances are noncomparable, but there is one option that can easily be compared in many species, from ants to elephants. The matter concerns feats of intelligence which can be equal in such different creatures. Even if you are not a long-distance explorer it could be difficult to find a right place and to come back not being equipped with something like an invisible Ariadne's thread of or at least with good brains. Indeed, the separation of "when", "what" and "where" rarely occurs in the real world. We will concentrate mainly on how animals solve "what" and "where" problems within their timeline.
Keywords: spatial relationship, all animal taxa, behaviour biology
Organizer(s): Z Reznikova Institute for Animal Systematics and Ecology Siberian Branch RAS, Novosibirsk, Russia
Organization (together with Dr. Raimund Apfelbach) of the Symposium
"Communication and Information Transfer"
at the XXVIII International Ethological Conference, Florianopolis, Brazil, August 2003
Roundtable at the XXVII IEC, Tübingen, August 2001:
Information theory as a tool for experimental investigations of animal language and intelligence
Organizers: Ryabko, Boris and Reznikova, Zhanna
The communication systems of animals have been a matter of special research interest to ethologists. The ability of language behaviour in animals is one of the best manifestations of intelligence closely related to their social life. Although it is intuitively clear that many high social species have to possess complex language, only two types of natural communications have been decoded, namely honey bee dance language and acoustic signals of vervet monkeys and of several other species.
The main difficulties in the analysis of animal language appear to be methodological. Many workers have tried to directly decode animal language by looking for "letters" and "words" and by compiling "dictionaries". The fact that scientists have managed to compile such "dictionaries" for a few species only, appears to indicate not that other animals lack language, but that adequate methods are lacking.
It is natural to use ideas of information Theory in investigation of natural languages, because this theory presents general principles and methods for developing effective and reliable communicative systems. We suggest to discuss principles and schemes providing quantitative characteristics of communicative systems and important properties of animal intelligence. The main point of our approach is not to decipher signals but to investigate just the process of information transmission by measuring time duration which the animals spend on transmitting messages of definite lengths and complexities. Based on these ideas, we recently have revealed symbolic language and numerical competence in several highly social ant species. It is a great challenge to extend these experimental schemes and approaches for studying other species.
Organisation of the Section of Animal Communication at the Series of Conferences "Information in natural sciences, social sciences, humanities and engineering"
(organised by Rudolf Ahlswede), Bielefeld, ZiF, 2002 - 2004.
Invited lecture at the Meeting "Information in natural sciences, social sciences, humanities and engineering" , Bielefeld, ZiF, February, 2002:
Zhanna Reznikova, Boris Ryabko
"Using ideas of information theory to study animal communication: a new tool to find news"
Invited Lecture at the Opening Conference, Bielefeld, ZiF Research Year
"General Theory of Information Transfer and Combinatorics", November 4-9, 2002
Zhanna Reznikova, Boris Ryabko
"Applying Ideas of Information Theory to Study Animal Communicative and Cognitive Skills"
Invited lecture at the International Moscow Summer School "Evolution, Behaviour and Society" (organised by Marina Butovskaya and Frank Salter):
"Dialog with a Black Box: Different Approaches for Studying Animal Communication":
Three main approaches to a problem of animal "languages" are discussed in the talk. First, it is a direct dialog with animals based on language-training experiments. Being applied to apes and grey parrots, this approach has revealed astonishing mental skills. It is important to note that this way to communicate with animals is based on adopted human languages. Surprisingly few are known yet about their natural communication systems. The second approach is aimed at direct decoding of animal signals. Although it is intuitively clear that many high social species have to possess complex "language", only two types of natural communications have been decoded up to the present.
The mater concerns the symbolic Honey Bee " Dance language" and acoustic signals of danger, which were deciphered for vervet monkeys and, later, for several other species. Many workers have tried to directly decipher animal language by looking for "letters" and "words" and by compiling "dictionaries". The fact that investigators have managed to compile such "dictionaries" for a few species only appears to indicate not that other animals lack "languages", but that adequate methods are lacking. The third, principally new, approach to study animal "language" has been suggested basing on ideas of Information Theory (see Complexity, 1996, 2,2: 37-42; From Animals to Animats 6, The MIT Press, 2001: 501-506). The main point is not to decipher signals but to investigate just the process of information transmission by measuring time duration, which the animals spend on transmitting messages of definite lengths and complexities. This allowed demonstrating that a few highly social ant species possess possibly one of the most intricate form of known animal communication. Basing on such a form of a "dialog" with ants, we succeeded in studying numerical properties of insect cognitive capacities, namely their ability to perform limited counting and to memorise simple regularities, thus compressing the information available. It is a great challenge to extend these experimental schemes and approaches for studying other species.
Chairmanship at the Symposium "Neurophysiology&Neuroethology" at the XXVI Ethological Conference,Bangalore,1999
Summer School on Human Ethology, May, 2005, Prague, Charles University.
Lecture: Social Learning in Animals: Hot Points and Perspectives
2nd Siberian Indian Summer School on Human Ethology, September 2003 (organized by Dr. Frank Salter and Dr. Arcadii Putilov)
Lecture: Social learning in bipeds, quadrupeds, hexapods, octopods, and Decapods
2nd Summer School on Human Ethology (Puschino), July, 2002 (organized by Dr. Frank Salter and Dr. Marina Butovskaya)
Lecture: Dialog with Black Box: Different Approaches for Studying Animal Communication