Bird brains?

Crows remember your face

(and know you’re hiding in there)

Crows are more like us than we might have guessed.

Scott K. Johnson - Sept 20 2012, 10:34am EDT

One of the most enjoyable facets of studying other species is discovering the amazing things they’re capable of. As humans, the things we tend to find most amazing are the abilities that remind us the most of, well, us—parrots that can speak, bonobos that play Pac-Man, monkeys that use rocks like hammers to crack nuts, and so on. That can create a bit of a bias when we evaluate human intelligence in comparison to other species. As Robert Brault put it, “If a rabbit defined intelligence the way man does, then the most intelligent animal would be a rabbit, followed by the animal most willing to obey the commands of a rabbit.”

The better we get at examining intelligence in other species on their own terms, the richer the picture of their cognition becomes. In many cases, the idea that some human trait or ability is utterly unique among the animals is cut down in the process. Chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest relatives, are most similar to us and do the majority of the humbling. There are, however, much more distantly related species that have joined in the game. One such group is the crows (and the corvid family in general), which can use tools—including traffic patterns—and solve complex problems.

Face time

Studies have demonstrated that crows can learn to recognize human faces, and hold onto that memory (and sometimes a grudge) for a long time. Researchers from the University of Washington wanted to go deeper and understand how they do so at the level of the brain. They were interested to find out whether crows recognized faces using the same neural processes as humans, or in another way with which we were not yet familiar.

Read more: Bird brains? Crows remember your face (and know you’re hiding in there) | Ars Technica

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