Thursday, November 18, 2021

Bird Brains

Research published in the journal SCIENCE in 2020 raises the possibility that crows have mental abilities formerly thought of as restricted to our species and other higher primates:

Crows Are Self-Aware

It's been known for a while that corvids (crows, ravens, jays, etc.), like monkeys and apes, use tools and recognize faces. These birds bring gifts to people they like and never forget people who injure or offend them. Experiments show, however, that they also apparently think about their own thoughts. A brain structure called the pallium, performing the same function as the cerebral cortex in mammals, holds densely packed neurons in greater quantity than in even some much larger animals such as elephants. This arrangement makes up for the smaller body and brain size of birds. The firing of neurons in the crows' brains during the experiment described in the article suggests that crows think about problems in somewhat the same way we do.

Parrots are highly intelligent, too. They don't just "parrot" human speech but often utter words in the proper context, such as asking for what they want or saying "Hello" when people arrive but not when they leave. As the famous African Grey named Alex demonstrated, parrots can work with numbers, too. They also pass some intelligence tests on the same level as five-year-old children:

Parrots Pass Classic Test of Intelligence

Here's a Wikipedia article on bird intelligence:

Bird Intelligence

For me, one exciting implication of these facts is that we now realize an animal doesn't require a large brain to be intelligent. Sapient aliens on other planets wouldn't have to resemble us in size or shape. Imagine a world dominated by brainy birds. With wings instead of arms, birds have limitations on their ability to use tools. What if they evolved with six limbs, though, like all the higher animals in the manga series A CENTAUR'S LIFE? Birds on a planet where the standard higher-life-form body plan includes six limbs rather than four could have legs, wings, and hands. Thus they could develop a civilization with material artifacts recognizable to us as products of higher intellect.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

1 comment:

  1. Creepy. Hope squirrels aren't the same way, lol, because yelling at them for digging up my flowers could get me in trouble.