Animal minds Intelligent Design News

New Zealand crows get smarter every time we study them

Spread the love
New Caledonian crow/Jolyon Troscianko

Or so it seems. From ScienceDaily:

New research conducted by UC Santa Barbara’s Corina Logan, with her collaborators at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, demonstrates the birds’ intellectual prowess may be more fact than fiction. Her findings appear today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Logan is lead author of the paper, which examines causal cognition using a water displacement paradigm. “We showed that crows can discriminate between different volumes of water and that they can pass a modified test that so far only 7- to 10-year-old children have been able to complete successfully. We provide the strongest evidence so far that the birds attend to cause-and-effect relationships by choosing options that displace more water.”


While humans are able to understand much about causality, it is unclear to what extent non-human animals can do the same. The Aesop’s Fable paradigm requires an animal to drop stones into a water-filled tube to bring a floating food reward within reach. Rook, Eurasian jay, and New Caledonian crow performances are similar to those of children under seven years of age when solving this task. However, we know very little about the cognition underpinning these birds’ performances. Here, we address several limitations of previous Aesop’s Fable studies to gain insight into the causal cognition of New Caledonian crows. Our results provide the first evidence that any non-human animal can solve the U-tube task and can discriminate between water-filled tubes of different volumes. However, our results do not provide support for the hypothesis that these crows can infer the presence of a hidden causal mechanism. They also call into question previous object-discrimination performances. The methodologies outlined here should allow for more powerful comparisons between humans and other animal species and thus help us to determine which aspects of causal cognition are distinct to humans. (Open access)

It would be interesting to compare crows to chimpanzees on tests of this type, as well as children (as here).

See also: Claim: Crows’ causal understanding rivals that of 5-7 year old children

Follow UD News at Twitter!

5 Replies to “New Zealand crows get smarter every time we study them

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    This reminds me of this quip from

    Humans Evolved from Dogs (Dogs shown to be smarter than chimps) – February 2012
    Excerpt: Birds are actually smarter than dogs, and dolphins than birds. So we have to update our earlier report that humans evolved from pigeons. The new evolutionary tree is: chimps begat dogs, who begat birds, who begat dolphins, who begat people. Hydrogen begat everything; or was it nothing that begat everything?

    Bur seriously, in ‘Origin of Species’ Charles Darwin claimed that,,,

    “Human begins are not justified in believing that God creates in ways analogous to the intellectual powers of the human mind.”

    Yet one thing that drastically separates man from animals, (i.e. part of the ‘image of God’ inherent to man), is our ability to communicate information.

    Origin of the Mind: Marc Hauser – Scientific American – April 2009
    Excerpt: “Researchers have found some of the building blocks of human cognition in other species. But these building blocks make up only the cement footprint of the skyscraper that is the human mind”,,,

    Young Children Have Grammar and Chimpanzees Don’t – Apr. 10, 2013
    Excerpt: “When you compare what children should say if they follow grammar against what children do say, you find it to almost indistinguishable,” Yang said. “If you simulate the expected diversity when a child is only repeating what adults say, it produces a diversity much lower than what children actually say.”
    As a comparison, Yang applied the same predictive models to the set of Nim Chimpsky’s signed phrases, the only data set of spontaneous animal language usage publicly available. He found further evidence for what many scientists, including Nim’s own trainers, have contended about Nim: that the sequences of signs Nim put together did not follow from rules like those in human language.
    Nim’s signs show significantly lower diversity than what is expected under a systematic grammar and were similar to the level expected with memorization. This suggests that true language learning is — so far — a uniquely human trait, and that it is present very early in development.
    “The idea that children are only imitating adults’ language is very intuitive, so it’s seen a revival over the last few years,” Yang said. “But this is strong statistical evidence in favor of the idea that children actually know a lot about abstract grammar from an early age.”

    In fact, the three r’s, ‘reading, writing, and arithmetic’, are the first things to be taught to children when they enter school. And in direct contradiction to Darwin’s claim that we have no right to believe that God creates ‘in ways analogous to the intellectual powers of the human mind’, at the heart of life, we find ‘reading, writing, and arithmetic’ (information processing) to be central to biological life:

    Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer – video

    “One of the things I do in my classes, to get this idea across to students, is I hold up two computer disks. One is loaded with software, and the other one is blank. And I ask them, ‘what is the difference in mass between these two computer disks, as a result of the difference in the information content that they posses’? And of course the answer is, ‘Zero! None! There is no difference as a result of the information. And that’s because information is a mass-less quantity. Now, if information is not a material entity, then how can any materialistic explanation account for its origin? How can any material cause explain it’s origin?
    And this is the real and fundamental problem that the presence of information in biology has posed. It creates a fundamental challenge to the materialistic, evolutionary scenarios because information is a different kind of entity that matter and energy cannot produce.
    In the nineteenth century we thought that there were two fundamental entities in science; matter, and energy. At the beginning of the twenty first century, we now recognize that there’s a third fundamental entity; and its ‘information’. It’s not reducible to matter. It’s not reducible to energy. But it’s still a very important thing that is real; we buy it, we sell it, we send it down wires.
    Now, what do we make of the fact, that information is present at the very root of all biological function? In biology, we have matter, we have energy, but we also have this third, very important entity; information. I think the biology of the information age, poses a fundamental challenge to any materialistic approach to the origin of life.”
    -Dr. Stephen C. Meyer earned his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of science from Cambridge University for a dissertation on the history of origin-of-life biology and the methodology of the historical sciences.

    Intelligent design: Why can’t biological information originate through a materialistic process? – Stephen Meyer – video

    John Lennox – Is There Evidence of Something Beyond Nature? (Semiotic Information) – video

    Also of note, William Dembski, in his forthcoming book, will make the case that it is information, not matter and energy, that is the fundamental ‘stuff’ of the universe:

    Conversations with William Dembski–The Thesis of Being as Communion – video

    Verse and Music:

    Genesis 1:26
    Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness,,,,

    John 1:1-4
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    The same was in the beginning with God.
    All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.
    In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

    Phillips,Craig & Dean “Let My Words Be Few” Live (HQ)

  2. 2
    Querius says:

    I’m not sure how to say this diplomatically, but it might not be precisely true that the New Caledonian Crow (Corvus moneduloides) is getting smarter, relatively speaking . . . 😉


  3. 3
    TSErik says:

    I find studies like this fascinating, though not too surprising.

    I, myself, have a parrot and see every day just how intelligent these creatures can be.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    To be honest, I think it’s just the researchers getting dumber. The crows haven’t changed.

    No insult intended to TSErik and parrot. 🙂

  5. 5
    Querius says:

    What amazes me regarding the intelligence of crows and parrots is their small brain volume.


Leave a Reply