Viernes, 24 Noviembre, 2017

Ravens Can Plan Ahead, Similar to Humans and Great Apes

Raven at Yellowstone National Park |         Yellowstone National Park  Flickr Raven at Yellowstone National Park | Yellowstone National Park Flickr
Eleena Tovar | 17 Julio, 2017, 15:32

Their names are Huginn and Muninn, the Old Norse words for "thought" and "memory".

The ravens were then briefly given the box, but not the tool.

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

Humans pretty obviously plan for the future, from packing a brown bag lunch to saving for retirement. New research establishes that just as humans and the more recently noted great apes, this species can barter and plan ahead their next move.

Birds are capable of extraordinary behavioural feats, from solving complex puzzles to tool making. Obviously, that's not a lot of ravens, and hand-raised ravens do not behave like wild ravens.

Later in life, ravens form monogamous pair bonds in which they raise young together and defend their territory.

Jelly bean now, or burger tomorrow?

This is why researchers were curious if they are able to get ready for upcoming events.

But the latest experiments revealed that ravens can wisely forego an immediate reward in order to get a better one in the future. An hour after researchers removed the tool and the box, they presented the ravens with the tool on a tray alongside a series of nonfunctional "distractor" objects and a smaller food reward. Despite the delay, the ravens chose the correct tool nearly 80 percent of the time, and successfully used the tools they selected 86 percent of the time.

Planning tends to come about when the higher value of a future reward is palpable, or when one imagines the happiness that will come by retrieving food in the future, they wrote. And they prepared for future bartering, too. They can grasp the concept of death and its causes.

Taking the exercise further, the researchers extended the waiting time to 17 hours. The complex cognitive task of planning ahead has almost exclusively been observed in humans and great apes.

"It's pretty amazing in that it works, functionally at least, in a similar way in ravens as in apes, and you don't see it in many other animals", says Mathias Osvath, a cognitive zoologist at Lund University in Sweden. Fascinatingly, the ravens performed better in the bartering tests than orangutans, bonobos and chimps, as shown in other studies. The ravens may not be thinking about the future at all, and are instead just choosing the object with the strongest association with the food, that is, the tool. The team also offered an instant reward in addition to the reward in the box. We share the spine because we share the history.

But whether its convergence or parallelism, what sort of environment selects for intelligence?

In the research it was also concluded that "Ravens are avian dinosaurs that shared an ancestor with mammals around 320 million years ago". The skills likely evolved independently, through convergent evolution, he says.

The same ideas apply to cognitive abilities. Scientists from Sweden's Lund University found that ravens appear to have the ability to plan for the future. It seems incredibly unlikely.

However, some scientists considered this behaviour different from the planning exhibited by apes and said it might just reflect a specific adaptation confined to the food hoarding domain.