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Avian Intelligence

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By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog

Via Arts and Letters Daily is a fascinating article about an area of intense scientific study: the behavior of ravens.

Ravens ... have a long evolutionary process of espionage and counter-espionage to build on, in the course of which they became masters of deceit and problem-solving. They got better and better at guessing the intentions of others and concealing their own. "Ravens are cognitively equal to a two-year-old child," says Bugnyar.

The birds are highly sophisticated when it comes to assessing their adversary's degree of knowledge and considering it for the purpose of their deeds and misdeeds. They won't attribute much brainpower to a wolf, for example. "When ravens discover a wolf burying a piece of meat, they watch him openly, "Bugnyar reports. "And when he leaves, they just dig it up." But when it comes to their conspecifics, who are prepared for such tricks, they act demonstratively uninvolved, grooming their feathers and stilting about as if bored.

The birds apparently rival primates in some respects. Read the whole thing.

-- CAV


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There was an article about raven intelligence in the April issue of Scientific American. Very interesting. In an experiment the lab ravens never figured out how to pull down to move something up.

It would seem that intelligence is more a development in response to biological needs rather than mere brain size. This would explain why animals with very large brains, like whales, dolphins, elephants and primates, aren't as intelligent as one would expect from their brians alone. They don't need intelligence much.

Oh, it also gives a new meaning to "bird brain."

Edited by D'kian
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