A new study helped determine that ravens should not be placed in the bird-brain category. New research establishes that just as humans and the more recently noted great apes, this species can barter and plan ahead their next move.
This comes as quite a surprise, as just as soon as ten years ago, humans were considered as being the only species capable of planning.
Ravens, Nevermore to be Seen the Same
Swedish scientists from Lund University conducted this new study. Their research results became available earlier this week in the journal Science. Previous observations had already shown that members of the corvid family, which includes the raven, are intelligent birds. These were proved to be able to think ahead, at least in term of nutrition, as they caught and stored food for later.
Still, some scientists contested this claim, as they consider that storing food for later is a biologically-determined feat, and not forethinking.
So, the new study decided to test five specimen of the species in situations that do not naturally occur in the wild. They did so by having them use tools and forcing them to barter. Similar studies were also used in testing great apes and their planning skills.
The research team trained the birds on how to use a rock, considered a simple tool. By dropping it through a small tube, the birds could open a box containing a piece of dog food. Then, the ravens’ attention was tested with a series of “distracter” objects. They had to pick the rock from a number of other items, and then to store it for later use.
Also, the ravens were trained on how to use a particular token in bartering for a food reward from humans. Later on, this was also placed on a tray with several other distracting objects.
“When the ravens knew that trading would only happen on the next day, they chose and stored these tokens as soon as they were offered to them,” according to Markus Boeckle and Nicola S. Clayton.
These wrote a separate paper, also published in the journal Science, and based on the Lund University study.
Ravens, Not the Only Birds Capable of Planning?
The birds were even noted to opt out of receiving immediate rewards in the face of later but tastier and greater rewards. Still, this only applied for a period lasting seconds. The longer the time passed, the lesser the temptation to wait.
Researchers consider that they should test and monitor more species, to try and determine if these too can plan ahead. These future results would also be correlated with present study results.
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