Tuesday, April 05, 2011
WHEN CROWS DEVELOP OPPOSABLE THUMBS HUMANITY IS TOAST
Regular readers know that here at Doc40 we have an enduring interest in the crow family. Their use of tools was a quite sufficient source of fascination, but now New Scientist tells us they have the basics of very un-avian socialization they really need watching. In LA I observed them daily, but now I’m in Brighton they are much less in evidence because seagulls rule bigtime.
“Angry ravens might kick and chase each other, but if they are close allies they make up afterwards. Plenty of primates and other mammals reconcile after a conflict, but previously no birds were known to do so, says Orlaith Fraser of the University of Vienna in Austria. Monitoring a group of seven captive ravens (Corvus corax), Fraser and colleague Thomas Bugnyar found that pairs of birds were likely to be more friendly to each other if they had fought each other in the previous 10 minutes. "It wasn't just standard friendly behaviour," Fraser says. Rather the ravens sat touching each other, and sometimes touched their beaks together or preened each other. Ravens are not tactile like primates, so sitting in contact is a strong social signal. "That's very good evidence for reconciliation," says Filippo Aureli of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. Comparing animals' typical behaviour with the behaviour they display in the minutes immediately after a fight is a "well-established method" to look for such behaviour, he adds. Ravens that had squabbled were more likely to reconcile if they were allies. "These are valuable partners who share food and support each other in fights," says Fraser."Many animals have mechanisms for maintaining valuable relationships," says Phyllis Lee of the University of Stirling, UK. Social animals that can recognise other individuals and form long-term relationships with them are most likely to be able to reconcile, she says. Fraser and Bugnyar previously showed that ravens sometimes console group members who have lost a fight.”
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Posted by Mick at 4/05/2011 09:16:00 AM