A team of geneticists has announced that they have successfully bred fruit flies with the capacity to count.

After repeatedly subjecting fruit flies to a stimulus designed to teach numerical skills, the evolutionary geneticists finally hit on a generation of flies that could count — it took 40 tries before the species’ evolution occurred. The findings, announced at the First Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology in Canada, could lead to a better understanding of how we process numbers and the genetics behind dyscalculia — a learning disability that affects a person’s ability to count and do basic arithmetic.

“The obvious next step is to see how [the flies’] neuro-architecture has changed,” said geneticist Tristan Long, of Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University, who admits far more research is needed to delve into what the results actually mean. Primarily, this will involve comparing the genetic make-up of an evolved fruit fly with that of a standard test fly to pinpoint the mutation.

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