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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16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why the fear? Why do they "really need watching"? Corvids are well-known to be really intelligent, up there with primates and dolphins, but I don't think annihilation of humans is on the agenda. One of the problems with the human race is that we are so very ego-centric and believe it's all about us. It isn't. - SD

Graeme K Talboys said...

It's the starlings you have to watch out for.

Word verification: typit (so I did)

Mick said...

My concern about crows is entirely based on my own observations and the way they used look at me as we interacted in the Hollywood dawn.

Jon said...

I yell at the crows in my yard because they chase the little birds away from the feeders. I know they've got my number. I do love an excuse to say "Corvids".

Anonymous said...

They are a beautiful and fascinating animal, though admittedly there are problems arising with overpopulation in some areas.
Here in Ottawa Canada, (as in many places) you may watch a steady stream of 1000s of them each afternoon coming from several different directions. They gather together in a "roost" each night and then return to wherever they came from in the morning. It's awe inspiring and a little eerie to see so many together. Some crow roosts are known to have 1 million birds (though not this one) :)

stu said...

yeah...starlings.......bastards.

Ben Graham said...

As a fellow Brightonian, I'm on the side of the crows over the seagulls. Crows seem to be making more inroads into gull-ruled Brighton, and just up the coast in Rottingdean is definitely crow territory. Hardly any seagulls. It changes right on the boundary. Strange.

Löst Jimmy said...

Gulls are the masters of this town too. They shat on my frontdoor yesterday and two of my shirts today. Perhaps I am being singled out...

Pepsi said...

Where's Tippi Hedren now that we need her?

seeformiles said...

I can see them raiding the bin outside my office window with great precision every morning. Wonderful things!

Timmy said...

I am at awe by the shocking testimony of the call of The Crow.

Anonymous said...

No need to worry about the look in the eyes of those Hollywood dawn crows. They were probably thinking nothing more sinister than: Dude, are you sure about the hair style? - SD

mohsen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mohsen Majnoon said...

Hi,

Is there any reference about this post? I've found this on the net, but couldn't have found any reference to this. could you please help me about?

Regards,
Mohsen

Mick said...

As it says in the introduction, I lifted the story from the New Scientist. Probably the issue from the same week.

Joe the Lion said...

I was in Vancouver (Canada) last year and was blown away by the massive streams of crows that would fly by. Some flocks stretched for at least a kilometre or more.
Eerily Hitchcockian in magnitude. The secret words are Tippi and Hedren.