A new study suggests that ravens can be as clever as chimpanzees, despite having much smaller brains, indicating that rather than the size of the brain, the neuronal density and the structure of the birds’ brains play an important role in terms of their intelligence.
The large-scale study concluded that great apes performed the best, and that absolute brain size appeared to be key when it comes to intelligence. However, they didn’t conduct the cylinder test on corvid birds.
(For some reason, humans were not tested for the ability to get food out of the end of a tube instead of striking at the middle… )
Can Kabadayi, together with researchers from the University of Oxford, UK and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, therefore had ravens, jackdaws and New Caledonian crows perform the same cylinder test to better understand their inhibitory control.
“There is still so much we need to understand and learn about the relationship between intelligence and brain size, as well as the structure of a bird’s brain, but this study clearly shows that bird brains are not simply birdbrains after all!” More. Paper. (public access) – Can Kabadayi, Lucy A. Taylor, Auguste M. P. von Bayern, Mathias Osvath. Ravens, New Caledonian crows and jackdaws parallel great apes in motor self-regulation despite smaller brains. Royal Society Open Science, 2016; 3 (4): 160104 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160104
True, brain size doesn’t matter nearly as much as organization. But we already knew that. And we already knew that some birds are quite smart. But only some birds.
A much more significant problem for conventional explanation in biology is that closeness to humans in terms of common descent doesn’t matter nearly as much for intelligence as it should. And being a bird does not, in itself, confer smartness either. We do not know the source of intelligence as yet, but common descent is not turning out to be much of a help. That is not a matter we expect many workers in the field to be anxious to discuss. The linked account certainly doesn’t raise it.
We do not know the source of intelligence because we do not know the source of information.
One knows a discipline is in trouble when obvious inferences can’t really be discussed.
See also: Are apes entering the Stone Age?
Furry, feathery, and finny animals speak their minds
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