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Find out just how smart ravens really are

Scientists have long known that members of the corvidae family are smart, but now they found that they can even plan for the future, just like humans and great apes do. 

Considered a bed omen is some cultures, ravens have gotten a bad reputation but not among scientists. Researchers have for a long time pointed out that members of the corivdae family, which includes ravens, crows, magpies and jays, are among the most intelligent birds but know they found that they can also plan ahead for different types of events.

The new research shows just how smart ravens are. The black birds are willing to forgo an immediate reward in order to gain a better one in the future.

Planning for the future requires complex cognitive planning and until now, scientists observed this kind of behavior only in humans and great apes. But scientist Can Kabadayi and colleagues demonstrated that ravens also have the ability to look beyond the current moment and plan for the future.

The researchers devised a series of experiments to further probe the ways in which ravens are able to plan ahead.

First, ravens were trained to use a tool to open a puzzle box in order to access a reward. The ravens were then presented with the box, but not the tool. The box was removed and one hour later the ravens were given the opening tool, as well as several “distractors.”

Nearly every raven chose the correct tool in order to open the box; upon being presented with the box 15 minutes later, they used the tool to open it, with a success rate of 86%.

A high success rate was also seen in similar experiments where ravens used a token to later barter for a reward.

The ravens planned for bartering more accurately than apes, the researchers report, and they were on par with them in the tool-using tasks, despite lacking predispositions for tool handling.

Next, the ravens were presented with the correct, apparatus-opening tool, distractor tools, and an immediate reward, but were only permitted to select one item. The immediate reward was less appealing than the reward in the box, the researchers report, demonstrating a level of self-control in the birds similar to that seen in apes.

Sylvia Jacob