Ravens Can Be As Smart As Chimpanzees, New Study Reveals

First Posted: Apr 29, 2016 05:30 AM EDT

An international team of scientists have discovered that ravens can be as clever as chimpanzees in spite of the former's smaller brain size, according to a recent report. The findings imply that the structure and neuronal density of the birds' brain, rather than its size, play a more important role in the development of intelligence.

Researchers from Duke University in USA had carried out an in depth study in 2014 where they compared the inhibitory control of 36 species of animals, which primarily included apes and primates. A similar research was recently conducted on corvids, which included ravens, jackdaws and New Caledonian crows to better understand their inhibitory control. The team of experts trained some birds to get a treat placed in an opaque tube by entering it through one of the holes on its two sides, similar to the earlier experiment conducted on primates and apes.  Next, the experiment was repeated with a transparent tube. It was interesting to note that on seeing the clear tube the birds did not go straight for the food, by flying to the glass barrier as is believed to be the natural animal impulse. Instead, the ravens chose to get the treat by entering from the ends in every try, as they were initially trained to do.

The performance of the birds was nearly 100 percent similar in result to a test conducted on gorillas and bonobos, according to a report. "Absolute brain size is not the whole story. We found that corvid birds performed as well as the great apes, despite having much smaller brains," said Can Kabadayi, from Sweden's Lund University. "This shows that bird brains are quite efficient, despite having a smaller absolute brain size. As indicated by the study, there might be other factors apart from absolute brain size that are important for intelligence, such as neuronal density". The researchers concluded that birds don't really have birdbrains, i.e. they are not as simple as thought to be. However, there is still a lot more to understand about the link between brain size and intelligence.

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