Study Finds That 4-Month-Old Ravens Are as Intelligent as Adult Apes

Ravens are fascinating birds. The Old Testament mentions the sleek, black, sharp-beaked creatures. They are also mentioned in Native American historical traditions and in Edgar Allen Poe’s haunting poem The Raven.

Ravens are known for their intelligence, which has been a reason why they have fascinated people for centuries. Ravens are known to be extremely intelligent and have a tendency to collect and use objects as tools.

They also work in pairs to search for food. But, avian intelligence has received less attention than the great apes until now. Scientific Reports has published a new study that focuses on ravens to expand our understanding of animal cognition.

The researchers found that ravens as young and as old as four months can pass cognitive tests just as well as gorillas and orangutans.

Simone Pika was the principal author of the Osnabruck Research Group for Comparative BioCognition (CBC), which conducted the first comparative evaluation of ravens’ cognitive abilities.

The study involved eight young ravens that were raised by hand. Each subject was tested with a modified version of the Primate Cognition Test Battery. This was used to test whether they could recognize apes (with their fingers) or ravens (with their beaks).

Each avian subject was tested at four, eight, twelve, and sixteen months. The PCTB’s physical components tested cognitive functions, such as spatial awareness and the ability to understand object permanence. Social components assessed communication and learning ability.

Researchers measured each bird’s cognitive ability at each stage using the standard PCTB. The avian data were compared with those of orangutans and gorillas using the same measure.

The fledgling ravens had cognitive abilities comparable to those of adult primates by 4 months. This included problem-solving skills. The ravens were able to comprehend quantities and causation, as well as social learning, on par with the previously studied apes.

Researchers claim that this is evidence of social and physical intelligence, as well as “general rather than specific intelligence”. This paper suggests that ravens, who are able to leave their nests early in life, might need this intelligence to survive at such young ages. It is possible that ravens were socialized by humans, resulting in results that may be different from wild young ravens.

The team hopes to continue their research into raven intelligence–particularly by developing metrics to evaluate “true species-specific, rather than human-specific, cognitive skills.” What does it really mean to be smart in the realm of cognition?

Although ravens are intelligent birds, a new study suggests that juvenile ravens might be as smart as great apes.

Eight young ravens were tested cognitively by a team of researchers at four stages of their development.

The ravens demonstrated a wide range of cognitive abilities that were previously unknown, including problem-solving, spatial skills, and learning abilities.

[h/t]: My Modern Met

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