Human behaviors of pointing and holding up objects in order to attract the attention of another has until recently only been observed in our closest relatives - the great apes. And even then observations of comparable gestures have been fairly rare, seen mostly among chimpanzees. But it was recently discovered that in the animal world, humans and apes (primates) do not share this trait of intelligence alone.

Scientists have long believed that such gestures are based on complex intelligence abilities and represent the starting point for the use of symbols and therefore also human language. These gestures are thus milestones in the development of human speech. Children at the age of nine to twelve months use these gestures before they actually say their first spoken words.

For the last 2 years, two researchers from Austria, Simone Pika and Thomas Bugnyar, have been doing research with individually marked members of a wild raven community. Ravens are songbirds that are members of the corvid family along with crows and magpies. Ravens surpass most other avian species in terms of intelligence and they tend to score on various intelligence tests similarly high as those of the great apes.

Ravens can be characterized by complex intra-pair communication and are involved in relatively long term bonding periods. They tend to develop a high degree of cooperation between partners. What the researchers found was that the ravens used their beaks similar to how humans use their hands to show and offer objects like moss, stones and twigs to their mates. These gestures were almost always aimed at partners of the opposite sex and resulted in the frequent orientation of the recipients to the object that their mates had signaled to. The ravens often interacted with each other by example billing or joint manipulation of the desired object.

The lesson learned here is that when it comes to the mystery of the origins of human language, they can only be solved by looking at the bigger picture of the world of nature. This means that researchers must begin to also consider the complexity of the communication systems of other animal groups such as the ravens. There is yet much to be learned from our brothers and sisters of the animal world if we are only willing to learn.

Responses to "Ravens exhibit complex intelligence behaviors similar to humans"

  1. Unknown says:

    They can remember your face.. even if they saw you.. just one time..! And this for ever..!!!!! :-)

  2. Anonymous says:

    I confirm, really

  3. Anonymous says:

    Scary birds

  4. Anonymous says:

    Smart and compassionate.

  5. Tibetan meditation of guardians include mention of ravens in the Mahakala guardian protector practice. Whattaya know? Something new that didn't know before abt ravens that higher intelligence is present. Makes great sense ! Love their raucous haughty no mess wt me energy whenever see them anywhere.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is an amazing thing. I saw a show on it once. There is a raven that flies around my house, I know how do you know it is the same one, The call, it is distinct never thought it would be but my husband knows the sound and it seems to show up when he is feeling under the weather.

  7. HARPER says:

    Nature can teach us so much if we'd slow down long enough to listen, observe and cherish the gift of other species. Not just ourselves.

  8. kgreeves says:

    It is better not to read too much anthropomorphism into this. In centuries past, they were well known in northern countries as "Wotan's (Woden's) Ravens," Wotan being the Nordic god of war. And for good reason. They always followed battles, knowing there would be plenty of slaughtered human flesh for them to feast on. Yes, they are intelligent and often care for their own species, but they are ruthless toward other birds and small animals.

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