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Crows take care of their tools like humans take care of their smartphones

A recent study has highlighted the precautions that crows use to protect their rarest and most efficient tools, as humans do … in theory.

Along with primates, octopuses and elephants, crows are one of those animals that show obvious intelligence, with certain behaviors that are sometimes surprisingly close to humans. We already know that they are particularly good at using tools, but researchers have just shown that this comparison can go very far; like most humans, they are sensitive to the intrinsic value of their tools.

Many of us are very careful with our new phones“, Introduces Barbara Klumb, behaviorist at the prestigious Pax Planck Institute, in Germany. “We are careful not to scratch it, drop it, or lose it. On the other hand, we handle our old machines with the fractured screen with much less care.“, She explains. The latest work of his team has shown that Caledonian crows adopt a similar behavior with their tools.

True feathered geniuses

The researchers were interested in the Caledonian crow, a species known for its stunning cognitive abilities, comparable to that of a seven-year-old. We know, for example, that they have a formidable memory and an ability to discern individuals. They are also able to solve puzzles largely beyond the reach of a young child, and even of understand analogies. Better: they are even able to pull off a famous self-check test (the test says “marshmallow”) better than a child!

But the aspect that interests researchers the most is certainly their engineering prowess. Indeed, these birds are extremely gifted when it comes to using tools, especially for food. But above all, they are able to make their own utensils from individually unnecessary parts. A sign of abstraction which testifies to a great intelligence, and which has been observed only in primates before.

For example, they are known to meticulously select the items that enable them to accomplish tasks they would otherwise be unable to do; we know, for example, that they make real fishing rods to go and fish for prey in interstices where their beak would not pass. “Depending on the task, crows can extract their prey 10x faster with a curved tool”Says Christian Ruiz, behaviorist at the University of St Andrews.

© Klump. one. eel.

Crows hold on to their trinkets

When offered them various types of tools, the researchers noticed that crows almost always select the hook-shaped sticks, which are significantly more difficult to find or assemble. An observation that has nothing to do with coincidence; this suggests that these birds instinctively recognize the potential interest of this part in the design of an elaborate tool.

And the researchers were not at the end of their surprises. Because these crows do not only recognize the value of these objects: they take it into account in the way they use and store them. “Subjects were significantly more inclined to adopt backup behaviors”With the curved utensils, explain the authors of the study.

They observed that the birds treasured these curved objects, which are very useful and difficult to find, in predefined and more secure storage areas. Some kept them directly under their paw, while others hid them in discreet holes to retrieve them later. On the other hand, they do not bother with these precautions for simple straight twigs.

Decision, abstraction, and planning

This suggests that they have a conception of the relative value of different tools”, Explain the researchers. A bit like a human who would take much more care of a high-end smartphone than a vulgar disposable phone, in short.

This notion of value would be directly linked to their capacities toabstraction and of planning. We know that they are able to formulate a mental image of a problem in order to solve it in their head before taking action. Retaining these tools is in essence the first step in solving a future problem.

The researchers specify, however, that the experimental conditions of their study did not allow them to push the interpretation as far as they would have liked, for the sake of intellectual honesty. Indeed, to ensure that this behavior was not the result of human influence, they had to capture and then accommodate wild crows themselves. A very time-consuming and demanding task when it comes to preserving animal welfare; they were therefore only able to carry out their experiments on 27 birds.

But this figure is nevertheless sufficient to highlight these fascinating behaviors, which were thought to be reserved for humans and a few other primates. A good reminder that intelligence is a protean concept and infinitely more complex than a simple IQ scale … and that birds are apparently more inclined to take care of equipment than some humans!

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