BERLIN -Scientists have long suspected that corvids – the family of birds including ravens, crows and magpies – are highly intelligent. Now, neurobiologists have demonstrated how the brains of crows produce intelligent behavior when the birds have to make strategic decisions, the same as humans, despite our lack of a common ancestor.
The research could give us an insight into the workings of the mind of a non-mammalian - including extraterrestrial life forms. Lena Veit and Professor Andreas Nieder, from Tubingen University in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, have published a study in Nature Communications that provides valuable and exciting insights into the parallel evolution of intelligent behaviour.
‘Many functions are realised differently in birds because a long evolutionary history separates us from these direct descendants of the dinosaurs,’ sais Ms Veit. ‘This means that bird brains can show us an alternative solution out of how intelligent behaviour is produced with a different anatomy.’ Crows and primates have different brains , but the cells regulating decision-making are very similar. They represent a general principle which has re-emerged throughout the history of evolution.
‘Just as we can draw valid conclusions on aerodynamics from a comparison of the very differently constructed wings of birds and bats, here we are able to draw conclusions about how the brain works by investigating the functional similarities and differences of the relevant brain areas in avian and mammalian brains ,’ says Professor Andreas Nieder.
Far from being ‘bird-brains’, crows are so smart behavioral biologists have even called them ‘feathered primates’ because the birds make and use tools, are able to remember large numbers of feeding sites, and plan their social behavior according to what other members of their group do.