Cantlon, J. F., & Brannon, E. M. (2007). How much does number matter to a monkey (Macaca mulatta)? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 33(1), 32-41.
Although many animal species can represent numerical values, little is known about how salient number is relative to other object properties for nonhuman animals. In one hypothesis, researchers propose that animals represent number only as a last resort, when no other properties differentiate stimuli. An alternative hypothesis is that animals automatically, spontaneously, and routinely represent the numerical attributes of their environments. The authors compared the influence of number versus that of shape, color, and surface area on rhesus monkeys' (Macaca mulatta) decisions by testing them on a matching task with more than one correct answer: a numerical match and a nonnumerical (color, surface area, or shape) match. The authors also tested whether previous laboratory experience with numerical discrimination influenced a monkey's propensity to represent number. Contrary to the last-resort hypothesis, all monkeys based their decisions on numerical value when the numerical ratio was favorable. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved) (from the journal abstract)