The evolution of numerical assessment abilities:


Our earlier playback experiments demonstrated that female lions can assess the number of simulated intruders roaring from a loudspeaker, and relate it to their own group size in order to avoid conflicts when they are outnumbered.  This indicated that the costs of fighting with larger groups could have selected for numerical assessment skills in social species, and suggested a possible biological basis for the evolution of mathematical abilities.  Detailed in McComb et al., 1994 (see also: McComb et al., 1993; Grinnell & McComb, 1996 & 2001).  This was the first demonstration of the use of numerical assessment skills in a wild mammal and prompted new work on other mammal species in the wild, including chimpanzees.

The evolution of roar structure:

Work is in progress to examine male and female roars and relate acoustic structure to selection pressures for advertising territory ownership over long distances and broadcasting information on body size and motivational state.


School of Psychology