Being human, scientists have made the assumption in the past that it was the mammals, specifically humans and the apes that had the high level of intelligence that had evolved only once on Earth. But the more there is study of birds, in particular the group of Corvids, the family of birds that is comprised of crows, jays, ravens and jackdaws, the more they are realizing that these birds are smarter than most mammals. Therefore if high intelligence occurs in distantly related groups, from the common ancestor we share with birds that lived 300 million years ago, it suggests this high intelligence has evolved more than once.

Some common traits that creatures with high intelligence share are the fact that they are long lived and have long childhoods with plenty of opportunities to learn skills from their parents. They are also highly social and have huge brains compared to their body size. These traits also apply to the Corvids and to Parrots but since bird's brains are very different than the brains of mammals, it raises questions as to what kinds of brains support high intelligence and the fact that we may have other types of intelligent creatures on earth that we are not currently aware of.

Several studies have been done recently that show that the Corvid's intelligence rivaled that of the apes who were able to do tasks that 3 and 4 yr. old children had difficulty with. In one study the Corvids were tested to see if they had causal reasoning skills. A wax worm, which is the favorite snack of Corvids, was placed on the surface of the water in a tube, just out of reach of their beaks. Then they were presented with a pile of stones and they would proceed to put the stones into the tube to raise the level of water so that they could reach the wax worm. Afterwards when they were just presented with the tube and wax worm but no stones, they flew off in order to find some stones to raise the water level.

In a second observation, if the birds were being watched by other birds as they hid their food, (hiding food is a natural habit of Corvids), they then rushed to move their food to another hiding place as soon as the other birds weren't looking. However they did not bother to hide their food a second time if no other birds were watching them and they only did this if they had experienced theft in the past from other birds.

A third experiment showed that birds have the ability to plan ahead. At night, a bird was locked into one of the three rooms.
Then in the morning, food was served in one room but not in the others. For the first three nights, the bird was put in the room where no food was served in the morning. For the next three nights, it was put in the room where food was delivered. Then the bird was given the opportunity to plan ahead, by giving him enough food for one meal and some surplus. The point was to see if the bird would remember which room didn’t come with breakfast, and then realize that they should stash the food in that room for the next morning. What was found was that the bird would stash food in that room — even though there was only a 50-50 chance that they were going to spend the night there.

All of these examples above are just further proof that it is high time that we take a deeper look into the intelligence of non-mammals. It is most likely that we will continue to be amazed at what we continue to discover - that we are not alone as intelligent beings on this Earth.

Responses to "Humans and mammals are not alone with high intelligence"

  1. Anonymous says:

    animals are able to use the natural placement much more judiciously then we - i wonder at times if my cat would like to give me advise . we seem to be alot less attuned and aware of the flora and fauna - Is quite merciful the tolerance animals have for US! =-] . In the circulation of life I now wonder if I stole food from a leopard and got back into the chain as a human . xx

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