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Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't stone the crows - science has proven they are not bird brains...

  • Don't stone the crows - Science has proven they are not bird brains...
    By Peter Petterson

  • First published at Qondio:

  • Don't stone the crows - science has proven they are not bird brains. Indeed these members of the avian family have a lot more going for them than a lot of their feathered friends. New Zealand scientists and Aesop the famous Greek writer of fables have something in common - don't stone the crows, they are actually cunning birds who appear to understand basic physics
  • In one of Aesop's fables illustrating the virtue of ingenuity, a crow was able to drink from a half-filled pitcher by dropping stones in it to raise the water level.

  • Auckland University psychology researchers have recreated the fable, with a tall half-filled tube of water, which had a small piece of meat floating on the surface. The four rooks named Pepe, Caesar, Mimic and Laura were given a collection of stones and learned to drop them into the tube to raise the water level and allowed them to fish out the food.

  • They proved to be even more cleverer, however, and when given a selection of small and large stones, they picked out the larger ones which displaced more water at once and brought the food within their reach more quickly. The crows showed an immediate preference for the larger stones, two of them actually disregarding the small stones during their first attempt and before they actually observed their effect on the water, the researchers wrote in their notes.
  •   They were also tested with heavy and light objects, choosing rubber cubes over similar sized polystyrene cubes.

  • The results of the various experiments indicated the birds actually 'understood' their actions, rather than simply doing something because it worked first up.
  • " The differences between causal and arbitary tasks that we presented to the crows strongly suggest that cognitive mechanisms other than simple associative learning are involved."
  • The above is what researchers wrote in the now published entry in PLoS One, which is widely seen as one of the world's leading general science journals.

  • Crows have previously shown they can use stick-like tools to manipulate their environment, such as dropping nuts on pedestrian crossings for passing cars to crack them open, then waiting for the 'green man' signal so they can safely collect their nuts.

  • Now Aesop was well aware of their abilities 2500 years ago when he wrote "The Crow and Pitcher", about a thirsty crow learning how to raise the water level in a pitcher by dropping in the stone.

  • This tale concludes with the proverb: "Necessity is the mother of invention" something that most of us have read at some time, some place, and somewhere! Contributor's Note Have a look at a smart rook now!


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Di Hill said...

Hi Pete, Crows here in Australia have worked out how to eat the dreaded cane toad without being poisoned! They avoid the poison glands. Smart birds, Di

Kiwi Riverman's Blogesphere said...

Fits the pattern of why they consider them smart creatures. Aesop knew 2500 years ago Di.