Tag Archive | "Corvids"

Tags: , , , ,

Crows/Jays Equal Children in Tests of Aesop Fable

Posted on 06 October 2012 by Jerry

Studies of the Corvid Family of birds (crows, ravens, jays, etc.) further demonstrate their higher intellectual capabilities.  In a study entitled “How Do Children Solve Aesop’s Fable” published in the July 25, 2012 issue of PLoS ONE, crows and jays demonstrated problem solving ability equal to children between four years to seven years of age.  As described in an Aesop Fable, a thirsty crow comes upon a half filled jug of water.  Unable to reach the water to drink, the crow drops pebbles into the jug until it raises the water level high enough to take a drink. Confronting tests which exhibited similar problem solving situations crows and jays performed at a level comparable to children between ages four and seven.

Experimenters demonstrated that corvids are not only capable of mastering this behavior but showed an ability to understand that larger stones raised the water level faster than smaller pebbles. The study showed that developmentally at age eight children improve their intuitive problem solving and surpass what corvids can achieve.  The report states, “Children between 4 and 10 years of age were tested on the same tasks as the birds.  Overall the performance of the children between 5-7 years was similar to that of the birds, where children from 8 years were able to succeed in all tasks from the first trial.”

In a different study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers looked at the behavior of wild crows and suggested crows can “reason” about causality.  Researchers stated, “In the first set of events, the crows observed a human enter a hide, a stick move, and the human then leave the hide. In the second, the stick moved without a human entering or exiting the hide. The crows inspected the hide and abandoned probing with a tool for food more often after the second, unexplained series of events. This difference shows that the crows can reason about a hidden causal agent.”

Finally in a third study published this year in the Journal Animal Behavior written by Teresa Iglesias and colleagues at the University of California, Davis, researchers observed scrub jays sounding an alarm when coming upon the body of a dead jay.  More jays would come and screech over the body of the dead jay for up to a half an hour from surrounding trees and fences. What is unusual is that Jays establish breeding pairs that are territorial and not friendly with other jays.  Behavior that involves a large number of jays from multiple pairs is not common.

Researchers stated “The anecdotal report states that other animals, including elephants, chimpanzees and birds in the crow family, react to dead of their species….While reactions of animals to their dead are sometimes called “funerals,” that does not imply that there is an emotional or ritual element to the behavior.  We simply don’t know enough about the emotional life of animals to understand that.  I think there’s a huge possibility that there is much more to learn about the social and emotional lives of birds.”

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 6 – Human Uniqueness, there is considerable discussion about animals that have passed the mirror and mark tests exhibiting self awareness.  Self aware animals include human beings, great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, but not gorillas), bottlenose dolphins, Asian elephants, and the corvid bird family that includes crows, ravens, magpies, jays, etc.  It is only through further research that we are discovering the heightened intellect represented by these animals in comparison to the human species.

Use the following links for more information:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0040574

http://www.pnas.org/content/109/40/16389.full?sid=2863ef68-cb62-4629-ab02-8c6a623c258b

http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/3859/20120912/western-scrub-jays-hold-funerals-dead.htm

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What Makes a Brilliant Mammal?

Posted on 21 July 2012 by Jerry

Before the decoding of the genetic content of animal chromosomes, if we wanted to investigate why some animals are more intelligent than others, there were only a few things we could do.  We could observe and test animal behavior under a variety of circumstances.  This might identify which animals are smarter than others.  Then to determine why they are smarter we might surgically dissect them to see if there are physical differences that might explain their enhanced intelligence.

This is exactly what was done in the past.  Through the use of the mirror and mark tests, we identified four mammals (human beings, great apes not including gorillas, bottle nose dolphins, and Asian elephants) that were thought to have greater intelligence and had achieved self recognition.  Upon dissecting and analyzing their brains it was found they each had a highly developed right prefrontal cortex when compared to other animals.  This was assumed to be the origin of their self recognition and enhanced intelligence.  It was also thought to be the reason for their heightened self evaluation, episodic (autobiographical) memory, introspection, humor and empathy.

Today’s geneticists are pioneering the newest methodology.  They compare the decoded genomes of a variety of large brained animals with highly developed cognitive abilities to see if they can determine the genetic roots of the size of their brains and their superior intelligence.  The results of a recent study comparing the genomes of cetaceans (dolphins and whales) with nine other mammals, has shown remarkable genetic similarity among “intelligent” species including primates and elephants.

Although the research, reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society in the U.K. on June 26, 2012, is still a work-in-progress, it has helped the researchers identify 228 genes that are potentially under positive selection within the dolphin lineage.  This means these genes are becoming more common in the population of cetaceans (dolphins and whales) due to natural selection.  It can also be demonstrated that the overall substitution rate of one base for another inside these genes, in other words the rate of genetic change, has slowed compared to other mammals in the study.  This substitution has slowed to be within the range shown in primates and elephants.  At this point the hypothesis of the study is that the identified 228 genes demonstrate the parallel molecular direction of cetaceans with other mammals possessing large brains.

The study entitled “Dolphin genome provides evidence for adaptive evolution of nervous system genes and a molecular rate slowdown” by Messrs. Michael R. McGowen, Lawrence I. Grossman, and Derek E. Wildman observes that “One aspect of cetacean biology that is striking is the relative size and complexity of the brain, especially in toothed whales (odontocetes).  Similar to anthropoid primates, odontocetes have evolved brains that are larger than expected for their body size….relative brain size….such as in the bottlenose dolphin is greater than in all non-human primates, and sperm whales possess the largest brains in absolute terms.”

This type of research shows great promise for our eventual understanding of the evolution of intelligence.  It also will identify the genetic basis of human evolution that allowed us to become the dominant species on our planet.  It may also one day help us to understand how to insure normal human development or reverse the negative genetic anomalies that cause much hardship for some human beings.

Use the following links to obtain more information on these topics.  I have included an article on the bird species, corvids, because even though we do not understand the avian brain they have shown development of self recognition, hence the use of the picture of a crow in the blog to introduce evolutionary subjects.

http://www.pnas.org/content/98/10/5937.full?sid=ec83b504-9962-4b0d-83f5-e737adf45b7f

http://www.pnas.org/content/103/45/17053.full?sid=466e60df-243c-4d45-a802-ca1905d4ab20

http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3adoi%2f10.1371%2fjournal.pbio.0060201

http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3adoi%2f10.1371%2fjournal.pbio.0060202

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2012/07/18/rspb.2012.0869.abstract

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Too Sentient for Their Own Good

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Jerry

June 16, 2011. San Francisco, Animal Life Experience

At least four animals besides humans possess self recognition; great apes (excluding gorillas), bottlenose dolphins, Asian elephants and the corvid bird family including crows, ravens and magpies.  These animals recognize they are looking at themselves when they see their own image in a mirror according to results from “mirror and mark test” experiments. In addition, excluding the corvid bird family, these animals are known to have a more highly developed right prefrontal cortex and to exhibit empathy when interacting with others. In human beings this part of the brain is believed to contribute to enhanced problem solving and a broader range of emotions. Unfortunately for these non human sentient creatures we do not always respect their awareness of their own existence and the other capabilities that go along with it

Two recent articles about chimpanzees used for invasive medical research and dolphins in captivity ask if these animals are too smart for this type of treatment.  They suggest our behavior amounts to animal cruelty. A Nature article published on June 16, 2011 entitled Chimpanzee Research on Trial, by Meredith Wadman, reports on the increasing public pressure for the United States to end its use of chimpanzees in biomedical  research.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have asked the Institute of Medicine (the medical branch of the National Academy of Sciences) to render an opinion about whether the government should continue its practice of supporting biomedical research on chimpanzees – human kind’s closest living relative.  The formal opinion is scheduled to be released at the end of 2011.  The NIH bowed to public pressure and outrage when the public reacted to the NIH plans to move 186 semi-retired chimps back into active medical research

The author reports that the United States is unique in that no other country in the world other than Gabon carries out invasive experiments on chimpanzees. Many countries have outlawed chimp research completely including the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the European Union in 2010.  Controversy has grown since an airing on ABC’s Nightline of a Humane Society undercover expose´ of treatment of chimps at Louisiana’s New Iberia Research Center.  The animal terror and abuse revealed on the documentary prompted strong reactions from the public, the Humane Society, and Jane Goodall.

We do not have a good history of medical research practices having freely used unsuspecting people in the past; soldiers, oppressed minorities, developing country populations, convicts and medically institutionalized patients.  We are out of step with the rest of the civilized world which has discovered that ever-more sophisticated in vitro methods make chimps unnecessary.

A second article, by David Grimm in the April 29, 2011 issue of Science magazine asks Are Dolphins Too Smart for Captivity? A pioneering 1950’s brain researcher named John Lilly became convinced that dolphins were highly intelligent and had a complex vocabulary.  In the 1970’s Lou Herman, the founder of a research-only dolphin facility in Honolulu, Hawaii showed that dolphins understood two artificial languages – one based on electronic sounds and another on a trainer’s hand gestures.  He reported that they grasped grammar and syntax and could comprehend human pointing, a capability that eludes chimpanzees.

Biopsychologist Lori Marino of Emory University in Atlanta is reported to have observed that dolphin tanks are chemically treated, bereft of other marine life, and just a tiny fraction of the hundred-square-kilometer ranges these animals are used to.  Further she says it’s no wonder that intelligent social dolphins swim in circles and jump out of their pools, and that these stresses contribute to their premature deaths from gastroenteritis, fungal infections and other ailments.  “You can’t replicate the natural settings for these animals.”  A joint 2009 Humane Society and World Society for the Protection of Animals report concluded “The totality of the captive experience for marine mammals is so contrary to their natural experience that it should be rejected outright.”

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 6: Human Uniqueness there is considerable discussion about self recognition in animals and the implications of the highly developed right prefrontal cortex in some mammals, including Homo sapiens.  Chapter 9: A Positive Life Experience Imperative and Chapter 15: Enhancing the Life Experience elaborate on the need for us to focus our efforts on improving the collective world life experience and in ending animal cruelty in all its forms.  Finally Chapter 16: Transcending Egocentricity states in part that “As much as we can benefit from a new thought, we can be handicapped by holding on too long to an old one….It is time to recognize evolutionary development of a new level of consciousness that extends beyond self serving behavior.”  We need to let these animals have opportunities for positive life experiences.  We need to end experimentation on chimpanzees and return marine mammals to the wild.

Use the following links for more information:  http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110615/full/474268a.html

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/332/6029/526.summary

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/chimpanzee_research/

http://iom.edu/Activities/Research/Chimpanzees.aspx

http://www.wspa-international.org/Search.aspx?keywords=dolphin+captivity&pn=1&pp=10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here
January 2018
S M T W T F S
« Feb    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031