Ravens Plan for the Future - Just Like Humans

Ravens Plan for the Future - Just Like Humans

So the researchers, Can Kabadayi and Mathias Osvath of Lund University, tested five captive ravens in two tasks they don't do in the wild: using tools and bartering with humans. The birds learned that they could exchange a blue plastic bottle cap with one of the experimenters for the favored doggie treat. When the experiments were repeated with the bottle cap replacing the stone, and an experimenter instead of the box, the results were basically the same.

The independent emergence of flexible planning might be an example of convergent evolution, a phenomenon by which an environment selects for strikingly similar adaptations among unrelated lineages.

Finally, the ravens were presented with the correct, apparatus-opening tool, distractor tools, and an immediate food reward, but were only permitted to select one item.

"We show that ravens plan for events with delays of up to 17 hours, exert self-control and consider temporal distance to future events", the scientists wrote. That's because apes and ravens have not shared a common ancestor for around 320 million years, according to NPR. Afterwards, they looked if ravens were able to pick up the right tool from a series of other objects, and keep it for a later use.

There's no doubt that corvids-the family of birds that includes crows, ravens, jays and magpies-are smart.

The ravens could also solve a similar future-planning problem that involved bartering. Their lives are a flow of action and reaction, making it difficult, if not impossible, to think complex scenarios through. "Once they had a tool, they clearly had no need for another, and so chose the food". As the animal kingdom is full of intelligent creatures, presented here are also other animals whose capabilities sometimes go unnoticed. The ravens were allowed to choose just one. Sure enough, in 14 cases of encountering the tray and later seeing the box reappear, they usually chose the stone and proceeded to use it correctly.

The research was conducted by researchers from the Department of Cognitive Science of the Lund University. But, as he tells Wan, these types of studies make some people uncomfortable since they blur the line between human and animal. "During training, the tool and token were both associated with food". One hour later, the ravens were given the stone, as well as several "distractors" such as a wooden wheel, a wooden ball, a metal pipe and a toy car.

But the latest experiments revealed that ravens can wisely forego an immediate reward in order to get a better one in the future. But can they turn their mind to the future? "That is one of the most astounding things in this universe", he says.

Taylor says this is the key control - divorcing the token from food association - that's missing from the study. "If you looked at the data, you'd say a raven is like an ape", he added. A new study shows that, pound for pound, birds pack more neurons into their small brains than mammals, including primates.

For all we know, he told the site, those birds could be "the Albert Einsteins [of] the raven world". Also, the ravens have their gestures, and they're used to communicate various items.