Ravens May Parallel Adult Great Apes in Cognitive Performance by Four Months of Age


At four months, ravens show cognitive abilities akin to adult great apes in experimental tasks, per a study.

By four months of age, the cognitive performance of ravens in experimental tasks testing their understanding of the physical world and how they interact with other ravens may be similar to those of adult great apes, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

Simone Pika and colleagues tested the cognitive skills of eight hand-raised ravens at four, eight, 12, and 16 months of age using a series of tests. The skills the authors investigated included spatial memory, object permanence – understanding that an object still exists when it is out of sight – understanding relative numbers and addition, and the ability to communicate with and learn from a human experimenter.

The authors found that the cognitive performance of ravens was similar from four to 16 months of age, suggesting that the speed at which the ravens’ cognitive skills develop is relatively rapid and near-to-complete by four months of age. At this age, ravens become more and more independent from their parents and start to discover their ecological and social environments. Although task performance varied between individuals, ravens generally performed best in tasks testing addition and understanding of relative numbers and worst in tasks testing spatial memory.

Comparing the cognitive performance of the ravens with those of 106 chimpanzees and 32 orangutans who completed similar tasks in a previous study, the authors found that with the exception of spatial memory, the cognitive performance of the ravens was very similar to those of orangutans and chimpanzees.

The findings provide evidence that ravens, similarly to great apes, may have evolved general, sophisticated cognitive skills. The authors propose that ravens developed these skills in response to living in a constantly changing environment where survival and reproduction are reliant on cooperation and alliances between ravens. However, the authors caution that the performance of the ravens studied may not be representative of the species in general.

Reference: “Ravens parallel great apes in physical and social cognitive skills” by Simone Pika, Miriam Jennifer Sima, Christian R. Blum, Esther Herrmann and Roger Mundry, 10 December 2020, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-77060-8

3 Comments on "Ravens May Parallel Adult Great Apes in Cognitive Performance by Four Months of Age"

  1. Oh gosh. There is that darn brain size problem again. First with the “Hobbits” who have only 300 cc’s and made the same tools as Neo’s and Hom’s of the same period. You poor Anthropologist are loosing any credibility you might have had. You authority is missing atm. Get your asses to work and figure this out like your supposed to and not ignore it.

  2. I once had a wild crow’s friendship for about 15 years. It was seasonal, when he showed up in early spring he would sit on the light pole in my pasture and scream to his lady friends. One day I answered his caws. He variated the frequency but more so the cadence of his call. I matched it. Every day until he departed for the rest of the year we “chatted” across the pasture. He answered all my calls and I answered all that he made when facing me (they were different when he looked away). Two years ago I heard him call as I was on my way to the feed shack. He was calling from the fence by the shack. I didn’t want him to fly off so I stayed still and answered him. He seemed distressed but if I moved toward him I was afraid he would just fly off. He retreated to the branches close by and I moved into the shack. Didn’t see him as I came out. Hungry stock has to be fed when they see you or they get rowdy. When I looked for him again he was gone. Later that day I went out to feed again and I found him. He was dead. Perhaps he came to me for help. Perhaps he came to say good bye. I will never know in this life time.

  3. … So!
    How long did take a Crow to reach that level of intelligence, how long did take apes to reach that level of intelligence…
    … those asteroids seem to be a lucky thing, though…

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