April 06, 2009
"Jackdaws seem to recognize the eye's role in visual perception, or at the very least they are extremely sensitive to the way that human eyes are oriented," said Auguste von Bayern one of the study's authors from the University of Oxford.
The study, published in Current Biology, found that hand-reared jackdaws took significantly longer to retrieve food if a human was staring at the food than if the person was looking away. The bird would only react in this way if the person was a stranger and therefore potentially threatening.
The jackdaws were also able to interpret certain eye movements and hand gestures from the humans to find food that had been hidden, such as finger pointing or moving eyes. The jackdaws were unable to read communication that was static, however, such as an unmoving stare or a tilted head.
The discovery is particularly surprising since other intelligent species, like chimpanzees and dogs, have been found to be insensitive to staring or eye movement, according to von Bayern. Instead, these species appear to depend on other forms of communications, such as head or body orientation or movement. They do not appear to comprehend eyes as communicative organs.
"We may have underestimated the psychological realms of birds," von Bayern said. "Jackdaws, amongst many other birds, form pair bonds for life and need to closely coordinate and collaborate with their partner, which requires an efficient way of communicating and sensitivity to their partner's perspective."
The researchers hypothesis that jackdaws respond to human eyes, because unlike many species they use eyes to communicate with each other. Similar to human eyes, jackdaws' have a dark pupil surrounded by a white iris.
Jackdaws are corvids, the same genus as crows and ravens, and are one of the smallest birds in this genus. Highly sociable, they live in large hierarchal groups and are one of the only known species to have been observed giving and sharing food frequently.
Dedicated rock-throwing chimp proves longterm planning
(03/10/2009) Biologists have suspected for a long time that animals other than humans are capable of making plans for future events, but it has proven difficult to show conclusively. However, a new study in Current Biology claims the first unambiguous evidence of an animal premeditating. Mathias Osvath of Lund University in Sweden has spent a decade observing a male chimpanzee in a zoo collecting stones, making them into concrete discs, and then throwing them at zoo visitors.
Fit with tiny backpacks, songbirds reveal speed of migration at 311 miles a day
(02/12/2009) Using extra tiny geo-locator backpacks, researchers have tracked songbirds’ seasonal migrations for the first time, according to research published in Science . The researchers discovered that these beloved birds fly faster and further than anyone ever imagined. The data taken from the geo-locators surprised everyone. Stutchbury and her team discovered that during their migrations between Pennsylvania and South America songbirds flew more than 311 miles a day, three times higher than previous estimates.
The honeybee can count
(01/29/2009) Plato once said: “numbers are the highest degree of knowledge: it is knowledge itself.” By Plato’s standards researchers have just discovered that the honey bee is a knowledgeable insect indeed. The honey bee can count to three in an instant according to a new study in the online journal PLoS ONE. Using dots and other abstract symbols, scientists from the Vision Centre in Australia tested whether the honey bees had the ability to count items in their environment.
Insect intelligence: paper wasps display strong long-term memory
(12/01/2008) A recent study in Current Biology finds that paper wasps are capable of remembering rivals a week after initially meeting. As a highly social insect, the discovery proves that the paper wasps' social interactions are based on applied memory rather than simple instinct. The finding overturns many ideas about the intelligence of insects.
When the magpie looks in a mirror, it sees itself
(08/20/2008) Unlike Narcissus of Greek mythology--who upon seeing his reflection in water jumped in thinking it was another--magpies have proven they can recognize their own reflections. Until now, only a small number of primates (chimpanzees, pygmy chimps, and orangutans) have displayed this ability, making the magpie the first bird shown to recognize itself.
Researchers discover "artistic" moth in Panama
(07/29/2008) Researchers have discovered a new species of Bagworm Moth that wraps its eggs individually in "beautiful cases" fashioned from its golden abdominal hairs, according to a new paper published in the Annals of the Entomology Society of America. The behavior is unique among insects.