Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Aesop's Fable - A Reality

Aesop tells the story of a thirsty crow who comes upon a pitcher with water that is beyond its reach. The crow uses pebbles to raise the water level and gets his drink. It was just a fable ... until last year.

Current Biology reports that 4 captive rooks (similar to a crow) were forced to decide how to raise the water level so that a floating worm was reachable. All 4 rooks solved the problem with precisely the number of stones needed. 3 rapidly learned to use large stones over small ones and understood that sawdust cannot be manipulated in the same manner as water.

The discovery is mind-blowing. It furthers the notion that tool usage is a flexible ability in animals, and holds implications for the evolution of tool use and animal cognition. It also demonstrates certain animals' ability to solve complex physical problems via causal and analogical reasoning. For the rook to do this without a cerebral cortex - instrumental for creative thought - leaves one in awe.

See video #1 & #2 of the study

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