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Smart And Compassionate Crows

May 17, 2010

While we humans might be calling ourselves as the smartest species on the earth, but we are not the only smart ones here. We already know how intelligent Chimpanzees, Dolphins, Octopus can be. Recent studies have shown that Crows or Ravens are extremely smart, may be even the smartest of the Chimpanzee, Dolphin, Octopus, Raven group. Crows have interestingly adapted themselves to live successfully with the humans and that’s why they are found everywhere where human beings live. Recent studies have shown that they can use tools to solve the problems and even feel compassion for their ‘friend’ crows in distress. In a recent study, researchers found that after a fight, crows will go to their beat-up friend and try to console them. They suggest that probably crows are able to sense the stress and can response to emotional needs. Also since the crows live in groups, this gesture also helps them in balancing up the cost of group living and makes the group more stable, just like the humans do! This kind of consolation behaviour has also been found in chimpanzees and baboons. Dogs and wolves also seem to show such kind of behaviour but it has not been studied in detail.  So while we humans might be losing the touch of showing compassion to stressful conditions of our fellow human beings, crows have still got it. The study reports the conclusions as follows:


Our findings suggest that in ravens, bystanders may console victims with whom they share a valuable relationship, thus alleviating the victims’ post-conflict distress. Conversely victims may affiliate with bystanders after a conflict in order to reduce the likelihood of renewed aggression. These results stress the importance of relationship quality in determining the occurrence and function of post-conflict interactions, and show that ravens may be sensitive to the emotions of others.

Source: Fraser ON, Bugnyar T (2010) Do Ravens Show Consolation? Responses to Distressed Others.PLoS ONE 5(5): e10605. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010605

Talking about how intelligent crows are, I will include a TED talk by Joshua Klein, who has been studying the behaviour of crows for many years and have even built a vending machine for crows where crows can use a coin to get a peanut and the crows were successfully able to use the machine! In one another example which he mentions in his talk, a group of crows in Tokyo have found an indigenous way of eating a hard nut which they cannot crack open by themselves.They drop the nut in the middle of the road, sot that cars can crush it. Then they wait for traffic light to turn red, so that they can easily walk into the traffic and eat their nut and fly away. This behaviour has been collectively picked up the crows living in that area and also being passed onto the next generation of the crows. Intelligent approach of survival! In next set of posts in coming weeks, I will also post some other videos and findings where it has been shown that crows can solve a two step and three step problem to make a tool in order to reach a target.

By the way just a thought: If tools, language and social structure were the attributes which were used to distinguish humans from other animals/species, probably we now need another characteristic of ours for that purpose, as chimpanzees and crows can make tools, dolphins can be made to speak and crows and chimpanzees follow a social structure where they live and survive in groups and also have empathy for their fellow group members. So what distinguishes us from other animals now? Maybe the ability to convert various energy forms for our advantage, some energy based definition? Or something else?

Anyway here is the TED Video:

Photo Credit: Flickr by Carly & Art used under Creative Commons License

Filed under: Research,Trivia

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1 Comment Leave a Comment

  • 1. Prasoon Diwakar » C&hellip  |  June 3, 2010 at 12:22 am

    […] more and more about crows and birds in general, they become more and more fascinating to me. In my previous post about crows, I talked about their smartness and compassionate behavior. In today’s post I am […]

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