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These crows are smarter than apes when it comes to building compound tools



New Caledonian crow with cane
Photo: Auguste von Bayern

Let's assume that behind a bookshelf is a hundred-dollar note that you can not reach. Next to the shelf is a set of TinkerToys. Even a toddler could probably put together a few sticks to fish the bill. But what about an animal? A particularly clever crow species seems to have recognized this problem itself.

New Caledonian crows are heavyweights when it comes to smart-asses known for their play and advanced toolmaking. But a new paper shows the birds that show tooling that has hitherto been observed only in humans and apes: they assembled new tools from constituent parts.

"We wanted to know how inventive they are, whether they can solve a novel problem." As a rule, we encounter them by assembling components to reach them, "author Auguste von Bayern from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the University of Oxford told Gizmodo," It really tests its creative abilities. "[19659004] The scientists started with eight wildly caught Caledonian crows, first presenting the crows with a transparent box containing food on a lane that, if pushed to the end, would come out of the box, also providing long wooden dowels, To reach the food and push it along the route, this taught the crows the task, then the researchers placed the food out of reach of the dowels and scattered isolated pieces on the ground near the crows and on a tool of older cylindrical ones Parts that fit together to create a longer tool.

Four of the birds (Tumulte, Tabou, Mango and Jungle) successfully created a longer tool from the parts to fetch the food. Three of the birds successfully completed the task in follow-up, but Mango, "a bird with seemingly erratic motivation", refused to participate in the follow-up, according to the study published in Scientific Reports. The other four continued to concentrate on the food with the short chopsticks and were disqualified.

The researchers continued to do these kinds of tests on the birds, but when food was out of the reach of a two-component tool, only Mango knew what to do: he made three- and four-piece tools. It turns out that he was motivated enough to outdo his colleagues. The results presented here "are consistent and exceed current evidence of this ability in non-human primates," the authors write.

This is of course a small study and does not observe the birds in the wild. New Caledonian Crows are well-known tool users who create hooks for feeding. But it is still "really amazing" that the birds have made the relatively complex task. "It's not surprising that chimpanzees can do similar things as human children," says von Bayern, "but finding similar services with distant relatives suggests that they have independently developed their cognitive skills."

The researchers are ultimately interested in how intelligence developed and how environmental factors can affect the development of cognitive abilities.

Who knows what the birds will learn next? Especially mango. Take care of him.

[Scientific Reports]


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