Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Crow

What makes humans special and different from other animals? Is it our ability to use tools? Maybe not, because other primates can use tools too, and so can birds!!! Crows can not only recognize human faces, they can use tools! Here is a crow using a stick to do something crazy:

But it gets better.

Not only can crows use one stick to retrieve some food, but they can use a short stick to retrieve a longer stick to retrieve some food. Not only that, but to make it even harder, researchers recently trained crows to have negative reactions to sticks by continually putting them in situations where the stick is almost but not quite long enough to retrieve food. They did this enough that the crows eventually began ignoring the sticks completely.

Once the crows had learned not to associate stick with food, they put them in the scenario where they could now use the short stick to get the long stick to get the food. And here is what one crow did on the first try:

AMAZING!! Go here for a more detailed explanation of the experiment.

I was talking with my labmate Mikael about this, and he pointed out that we might want to watch out, birds might get better at using tools and take over the earth. Imagine that, dinosaurs almost completely die out, evolve into birds, and take over the world...again. Watch out!!