Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Aesop's fable 'the crow and the pitcher' more fact than fiction

10.08.2009
New research indicates that rooks, members of the crow family, are able to solve complex problems using tools

In Aesop's fable 'The crow and the pitcher' a thirsty crow uses stones to raise the level of water in a pitcher to quench its thirst.

A new study published online today (06 August) in the journal Current Biology demonstrates that rooks, birds belonging to the corvid (or crow) family, are able to solve complex problems using tools and can easily master the same technique demonstrated in Aesop's fable.

Christopher Bird of the University of Cambridge, lead author of the paper, highlighted the importance of the findings, stating: "Corvids are remarkably intelligent, and in many ways rival the great apes in their physical intelligence and ability to solve problems. The only other animal known to complete a similar task is the orang-utan.

"This is remarkable considering their brain is so different to the great apes'. Although it has been speculated in folklore, empirical tests are needed to examine the extent of their intelligence and how they solve problems."

In the first part of the study, at which point the researchers varied the height of the water, the four rooks which were the subject of the research used stones to raise the water level to reach a worm floating on top. The clever birds proved very adept and were highly successful regardless of the starting level of the water and the number of the stones needed.

Two of the birds were successful on their first try to raise the height of the water to a level at which the worm floating on top could be reached whilst the other two birds needed a second try.

The birds were also highly accurate in their ability, adding the exact number of stones needed to raise the water level to the necessary height. Additionally, rather than attempting to reach the worm after each stone was dropped, they apparently estimated the number needed from the outset and waited until the appropriate water level was reached before dipping their beaks into the tube.

In the second experiment the rooks were presented with stones which varied in size. The rooks selected larger stones over smaller ones (although not straight away). The scientists speculate that the birds learnt rapidly that the larger stones displaced more water and they were therefore able to obtain the reward more quickly than using small stones.

In the third experiment, the rooks were observed to recognise that sawdust could not be manipulated in the same manner as water. Therefore when presented with the choice between a tube half-filled with either sawdust or water, rooks dropped the pebbles into the tube containing water and not the sawdust.

Although the study demonstrates the flexible nature of tool use in rooks, they are not believed to use tools in the wild.

"Wild tool use appears to be dependent on motivation," Bird said. "Rooks do not use tools in the wild because they do not need to, not because they can't. They have access to other food that can be acquired without using tools."

As Bird noted, that fits nicely with Aesop's maxim, demonstrated by the crow: "Necessity is the mother of invention."

Genevieve Maul | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cam.ac.uk

Further reports about: Aesop's fable corvid orang-utan physical intelligence sawdust worm floating

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>