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Nature & Environment

Crows may be self-aware, new study claims

By T.K. Randall
October 3, 2020 · Comment icon 14 comments

Crows and ravens are particularly brainy. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 R. Altenkamp
Researchers believe that crows may be one of the few non-human species to possess a form of self-awareness.
Members of the corvid family, which include ravens, crows and jays, have long been known to possess a remarkable level of intelligence with the capacity to remember human faces, solve puzzles, navigate complex environments and even hold funerals for their own dead.

Now according to a new study, these remarkably brainy birds may actually possess a form of consciousness seen only in humans and a few select primates.

In other words, they may be aware of their own sensory perceptions.

To determine this, researchers headed up by animal psychologist Andreas Nieder from the University of Tubingen in Germany conducted experiments that involved monitoring the brain activity of crows while exposing them to various visual stimuli.

The study required the birds to peck a colored light when they saw a figure on a screen.
Of particular interest was the fact that the birds' responses suggested the presence of some form of secondary mental process indicative of a higher level of awareness.

This was evidenced by the way the birds responded to figures that were much fainter on the screen.

"Nerve cells that represent visual input without subjective components are expected to respond in the same way to a visual stimulus of constant intensity," said Nieder.

"Our results, however, conclusively show that nerve cells at higher processing levels of the crow's brain are influenced by subjective experience, or more precisely produce subjective experiences."

Source: Smithsonian Magazine | Comments (14)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #5 Posted by Wepwawet 4 years ago
I thought perhaps I should back up what I wrote about the avian brain that was not covered in the article linked to. This paper is is entitled "Birds have primate-like numbers of neurons in the forebrain" Brainy birds   What the authors mean by "primate-like" is that birds, due to miniaturization, really do have almost as many neurons as primates even though their brains are physically very much smaller. A few quotes from the paper: This comparing other birds, primarily the more basal birds that are generally considered by us to be "dumb", to corvids. So even the "dumb" birds match primates ... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by Free99 4 years ago
When I was a kid my grandmother had a garden. She had scarecrows around it. My dad told me that crows were very smart that you could point a broom stick at them like it was a rifle and they would fly off. I tried it and he was right. Apparently they are smart enough to know what guns are.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Wepwawet 4 years ago
It's also known that when a crow is killed, all other crows may avoid that area for two years. This is not just avoidance by the crows that saw the killing, but all the local crows as they pass on information. Experiments conducted by Marzluff at Seattle proved that crows can remember human faces, and who has been bad to them, and can pass that information beyond their own territory and down the generations. The researchers found that crows not in the area of the experiment, and not even alive when the experiments were first carried out five years prior, could recognize these bad faces, in fac... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by lightly 4 years ago
When we camp in th desert, every area we camp in has a pair of Ravens which greet us each morning with a fly over  and a squawk  .    . they are probably checking for anything edible too.. .  We once put some bits of carrot out for the "Nude Wash" couple. We don't make a habit of that sort of thing though.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Wepwawet 4 years ago
Cogito ergo sum ? or Cogito ergo sum corvus  
Comment icon #10 Posted by Jon the frog 4 years ago
Human are way biaised on their evaluation of intelligence... elevating himself on an illusionary pedestal to tower over others animals.
Comment icon #11 Posted by khol 4 years ago
easy meal lol..  
Comment icon #12 Posted by Abramelin 4 years ago
Comment icon #13 Posted by Wepwawet 4 years ago
This is not new news, or about crows, but worth repeating as maybe not everybody is aware of this. Some birds in Australia have been seen to pick up burning twigs from an existing bush fire and drop them in a new location to start another fire. The purpose is to flush out prey. So maybe when it is seen as suspicious that fires start up unexpectedly, it may not be some drunken bozo or malignant arsonist, but birds hunting. While this may be annoying to us, deadly even, it shows a very high level of intelligence on the part of the birds.  
Comment icon #14 Posted by Abramelin 4 years ago
Well. start a thread about crows, and you will find me there, heh. What I find fascinating about crows is, that they actually make use of fire, and not only for hunting (see link in my former post), but also for other purposes:

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