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Mirror Self-Recognition in Magpies

21.08.2008
In a paper appearing in PLoS Biology Helmut Prior (Goethe-University, Frankfurt a.M.) as well as Ariane Schwarz and Onur Güntürkün (Ruhr-University Bochum) present evidence for mirror self-recognition in Magpies.

By means of the mirror and mark test that is often used with human children and apes the authors show that Magpies take their mirror image for a reflection of their own body. These findings represent the first evidence of mirror self-recognition in a non-mammalian species and bear several major implications.

The phylogenetic lines of birds and mammals have gone through a separate evolutionary history for at least 300 million years. Up to now mirror-self recognition had only been shown in very few mammalian species like chimpanzees, orang-utans, elephants, and dolphins. Evidence for self-recognition in Magpies, therefore, provides particularly strong support that higher cognitive skills and consciousness developed independently in different evolutionary lines.

It has always been assumed that the neocortex is a prerequisite for higher cognition and consciousness. But birds have no neocortex and are endowed with a vastly different brain organization. Thus, the recent findings in Magpies show that even self-recognition is possible without a neocortex.

Prof. Dr. Onur Güntürkün | alfa
Further information:
http://www.rub.de

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