Ravens can Plan for the Future, Scientists Claim


In a new report published Friday in the journal Science, scientists from Sweden’s Lund University revealed that ravens appear to have the skill to plan ahead.

Up until 10 years ago, it was thought that only humans had the unique ability to plan for the future. However, recent studies involving great apes proved this theory wrong.

Now, scientists claim that birds carry this not-so-unique ability as well.

Cognitive zoologist Mathias Osvath and graduate student Can Kabadayi tested the birds’ abilities by presenting five ravens with a series of puzzles. First, they taught the birds how to retrieve food from a puzzle box by using a certain tool. The ravens also interacted with the puzzle box without any tools.

Next, the birds were given a series of random objects, with one being the functional tool they were first presented with. Once the puzzle box was installed 15 minutes later, the birds were able to successfully select the right tool and used it to open the box 86 percent of the time. One female bird, however, was able to open the box without any tools at all.

Another experiment was conducted, which involved teaching the ravens to use a token to “barter” with humans for food. Yet again, the birds were able to select the token out of a series of objects in exchange for a treat.

The ravens also demonstrated self-control skills. When presented the random array of objects that either included the useful tool or token, the researchers would put a small food treat mixed in with the items. The birds didn’t choose the immediate reward, knowing they would get a larger and better food treat if they selected the right object.

To plan, “you need a lot of different skill sets to work together and that’s interesting, because how can that be similar between corvids and great apes given they are so different to each other evolutionarily?” Kabadayi told NPR.

He believes the skills likely evolved independently through convergent evolution.

Parrots would be another great test subject, Kabadayi claimed, since they have a “huge number of neurons in their brains” and have proved to have good memories.

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