For centuries we have said that we are special – that what separates humans from animals is our ability to reason.
But this belief was undermined every time given the evidence that monkeys also have the intelligence to use tools, solve complex problems and even plan the future.
Now the ultimate indignity: Ravens can do it too.
In a rural research farm in Sweden, working with birds, raised breeders, cognitive zoologist Mathias Osvath recently taught five crows how to use a tool to open a puzzle type box with a treat.
He then laid his birds through a series of tests in which they had to choose the tool, despite the temptation in a much more immediate way with no place to box.
Birds do not bite. Only when they reduced the box would they use the tool they had saved for a better reward – which demonstrates self-control, reasoning and advanced planning.
“It’s not just the fact that they have these skills independently, but to use them together to make these complex decisions is what makes it so incredible,” said Osvath in Lund, Sweden.
He compared the calculations of his subjects to sophisticated as humans make decisions every day.
“Let’s just say you’re planning a trip to London, and you know how often it rains there.” So take an umbrella, even if it’s not raining wherever you are.This is what we’re talking about, based on past experience, “said M Osvath.
Their study – published Thursday in the journal Science – is the latest in a growing cognitive labor zoology tearing up assumptions about the limits of animal reasoning ability.
Some of the more recent work has been constructed in a study conducted in 2006 by researchers in Leipzig, Germany, which uses puzzling tests such as raven Osvath’s experience to show that monkeys could use tools and do planning.
However, scientists working with birds have long suspected that some winged creatures could match the intelligence of monkeys, especially ravens, crows and evil jays, members of the crow family.
Several studies have tried to measure and document the cognitive abilities of these birds, focusing mainly on their obsession to hide food.
Some have found that crows hid their food faster if they thought they were being watched. In other trials, scrud jets even moved their hidden food into a second place, once they realized they were being watched, in an apparent effort to avoid potential thieves.
Scientists Corvid, this behavior shows that some birds have a cognitive understanding of what others may know or intent and the ability to plan future consequences. Critics have overturned such conclusions, saying that the reaction of birds could be simple, instinctive responses to visual cues.
“It was a big argument because it was difficult for some to imagine that birds could do these things too,” said Thomas Bugnyar, a cognitive professor at the University of Vienna who has studied ravens for 20 years but who was not involved in the research Osvath. “People have continued to look for holes or other possible explanations.”