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smart bird
August 27, 2012 3:56 AM   Subscribe

"Tool use in animals is rare, and bespeaks a level of intelligence that most of us are unaccustomed to associating with non-humans. That's what makes this video of a Green Heron using bread to lure fish to their doom so remarkable. One would be hard pressed to argue that this bird is not thinking critically about the technique it is employing to catch its prey. Not only is it demonstrating logic and reason in its capacity to understand that a piece of bread can be used as bait, it's also passing up the chance to eat the bread in favor of a better meal, actively weighing cost and benefit, pitting immediate gratification against delayed satisfaction. It's a stunning display of animal intelligence."
posted by flapjax at midnite (68 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just out of that scene, there's a cat throwing out pieces of bread.
posted by three blind mice at 4:12 AM on August 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


And just out of that scene, there's a blogger using animals to bait his posts for clicks.
posted by bicyclefish at 4:31 AM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wow, each time the bird puts the bread in and pulls it out it gets smaller and smaller meaning that it's actually putting known good calories at risk in return for the possibility that he can lure a fish to it's death. That's really remarkable behavior because at what point in time did the first Heron figure out that bread (or some other foodstuff) could be used for bait. I mean presumable the Heron is relatively confident that his ploy will succeed here but how much forethought was required to develop this hunting technique the first time instead of just eating the bread.
posted by vuron at 4:33 AM on August 27, 2012


Maybe the heron is gluten-sensitive.
posted by ryanrs at 4:34 AM on August 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Maybe the bread is suicidal.
posted by R. Schlock at 4:39 AM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's not just delayed gratification, either, it's understanding how fish will react. Unless herons have evolved to bait fish somehow, we're seeing at least a primitive theory of mind at work. It has figured out what fish do when edible food is on the surface, and is smart enough to use that knowledge to manipulate the fish right into its beak.

There are some high-level mental functions going on in that bird.

Watch it as it fishes, too -- it starts with the bread fairly far out, and then pulls the shrinking piece closer and closer and closer to itself, finally nabbing the fish just before it runs out of bread.
posted by Malor at 4:41 AM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Birds turn out to be among the most unexpectedly intelligent animals -- a shock to the mammocentric view we all were brought up with. Dr. Irene Pepperberg's experiments with the talking Gray African parrot Alex are well known, but even common crows evidence intelligence even beyond that of this heron.
posted by Balok at 4:54 AM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is like the bird equivalent of Gilgamesh. *pulls out his copy of The Origin of Consciousness... for another reread*
posted by cthuljew at 4:57 AM on August 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


this bird is more skilled at fishing than most humans

That's rather a low bar, isn't it?
posted by chavenet at 5:15 AM on August 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Years ago I watched a bird of this same species begging for popcorn at Audubon Zoo. We were trying to figure out what the bird wanted popcorn for, when we realized it was using it to bait the fish in the fountain pool.
posted by localroger at 5:17 AM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Where I grew up, there was a stream at the bottom of the garden which was also the run-off for the local reservoir. It was normally quite placid and shallow, but was in a deep gully and could suddenly go into quite a ferocious spate if water needed to be dumped.

We had a dog, a very lovely gentle golden Labrador bitch of infinite patience and fortitude. One time, the two of us were exploring the hillside on the other side of the stream, and we got back to it just as a run-off started. I leaped over the gully, but the dog was not so sure. For about five minutes, as the stream rose, I watched her run along the bank, getting more and more apprehensive but searching for the best place to jump from. Eventually she found a place she'd never jumped from before, went back up the hill a little, ran at it and made it.

From that point on, I have never had any doubt about animal consciousness. Tool making may be a rare and undeniable example of this, but if there's any definition of intelligence that excludes the behaviour our dog showed that day - observing, planning, weighing strategies, choosing the best one and seeing it through despite having competing motives - I doubt it's very smart.
posted by Devonian at 5:23 AM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


The suspense was killing me. Great, great video. I continue to be amazed that humans continue to be amazed that other animals are capable of this kind of behavior. What a bizarre default assumption.

And, in other animal consciousness news, which probably deserves a post of its own::

Animals conscious say leading neuroscientists

We declare the following: “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non- human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”


The full Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness is here [pdf].
posted by mediareport at 5:35 AM on August 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


Prominent scientists sign declaration that animals have conscious awareness, just like us
posted by meows at 5:36 AM on August 27, 2012


Oh, and io9's "Tool use in animals is rare" should read "Observed tool use in animals is rare."

To be scientific about it, I mean.
posted by mediareport at 5:36 AM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Its only a "stunning display of intelligence" if you rate human adaptation strategies based on tool use particularly highly. Which we are taught uncritically to do.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:40 AM on August 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


I had no ideas those birds were so quick when on the ground.
posted by COD at 5:47 AM on August 27, 2012


Bait fishing in crows has been sort of documented before, but it's really cool to see this heron do it. Thanks for the post!
posted by dhruva at 5:49 AM on August 27, 2012


A couple of weeks ago I saw either a crow or a juvenile raven going after a leftover food container that someone had left out on a picnic table.

It didn't simply bash or tear open the food container. It very methodically worked it's beak around the edge of the clamshell container until it found the tab/slot closure, poking and prodding until the container popped open. It took a while but it was so exactly like watching someone trying to pick a lock it gave me chills, and the raven had picked up an audience of about half a dozen people watching in fascination and rooting for him.

There was actually applause when he opened it. It was highly entertaining to everyone who noticed what was going on.

Inside was some kind of breakfast sandwich. The raven dissected it, throwing away grilled onions and bread before carefully stacking up the bacon and setting it aside and flying off with the patty of scrambled eggs. Then it quickly returned and carefully stacked two of the four pieces of bacon before giving out a call that must have said "Hey, guys! Food!" and flying off with the bacon.

A split second later several other ravens flew down and grabbed most of what was left while some invasive European starlings squabbled over the onions and bits of bread that the raven threw on the ground with obvious distaste. Apparently the starlings have learned to show up when a raven does that "Hey guys, food!" call.

Sure, it's a little depressing to see a raven scrounging for human table scraps, but watching it open that clamshell container was fascinating. It'd obviously done it before, and it had learned that the best way to open them was to find the latch, not simply trying to tear open the container.
posted by loquacious at 5:58 AM on August 27, 2012 [21 favorites]


One of the links in the io9 article is about dolphins fishing:

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in Shark Bay were photographed engaging in ‘conching’ in 2007 and 2009.

I know it's unintentional, but it makes it sound like the dolphins are trying to make a new meme (like "planking" or "tebowing").
posted by dhens at 6:02 AM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


but if there's any definition of intelligence that excludes the behaviour our dog showed that day...I doubt it's very smart.

While I was reading this, my dog was licking, methodically, the same 2 inch spot on the floor. Over and over.

So there's another data point for you.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:11 AM on August 27, 2012 [36 favorites]


A dog using a tool
posted by exogenous at 6:25 AM on August 27, 2012 [19 favorites]


Crows are the best birds. If they ever decide we are a substantial threat to them, they will take steps against the mammals, I am convinced. It may only be our ability to produce junk food that has kept us around this long.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:35 AM on August 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


But not so smart it didn't carry the fish to that big flat rock so it doesn't get all sandy. Duh-DOY!
posted by sourwookie at 6:42 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


sourwookie: But not so smart it didn't carry the fish to that big flat rock so it doesn't get all sandy. Duh-DOY!

Might be deliberate. Birds need grit to digest food properly. You may have noticed that they're short on teeth. :)
posted by Malor at 7:12 AM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love watching evolution in progress like this. Is it logical to think that some of these species are on the evolutionary path towards growing problem solving and communication abilities? It's really just a question of timeline and successful reproduction right?
posted by dry white toast at 7:31 AM on August 27, 2012


Oh we adorable arrogant humans. So us ... to think WE are the only beings with consciousness. Isn't that just egotistically adorable and the easiest way to not have to take responsibility for the fact that we treat these different - but equally feeling and yes conscious creatures - as our *things* to be used, eaten and far, far too often .... discarded and ignored.

What an amazing world we would live in if we all woke up to the fact that we 2-legged brained thingies are not ... the be-all, end-all superior entities we think we are.

Ever read "The Findhorn Garden?" You'll never look at a plant the same way again either.......
posted by cdalight at 8:04 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe it is, in fact, the bread that is using the bird as a tool to satisfy its religious obligation to be eaten by the fish. Bread is notoriously fundamentalist.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:07 AM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was glad to see him ultimately succeed and catch a nice fish for his efforts.
posted by caddis at 8:08 AM on August 27, 2012


Is it logical to think that some of these species are on the evolutionary path towards growing problem solving and communication abilities? It's really just a question of timeline and successful reproduction right?

Only if that's more advantageous than say, being faster and stronger. Greater intelligence isn't a universal direction of evolution; it's one possible adaptation that may or may not pan out.

Single-celled organisms are quite sucessful, and do not use intelligence. There are even scenarios where it may be an advantage to become less intelligent; evolution is just cost/benefit rather than "progress".

Indeed, since the dawn of civilization, the primary selective pressue for humans has not been intelligence, but resistance to epidemic dieseases.
posted by spaltavian at 8:09 AM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I used to work at a science museum, with a two-toed sloth. He had figured out that, if he had just the right stick, he could probably pull himself over the glass of his enclosure. He would had probably hurt himself in the subsequent fall, but he had definitely put two and two together. I don't think anyone outside of our exhibit got as excited about that as we did, but it was really crazy. Animals are smart.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:10 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love watching bird videos as much as the next guy, but I doubt that observations of this type prove that animals have anything like "consciousness" in a proper sense of the term. As we can see from this thread, people have a tendency to enjoy extolling the virtues of non-human animals. Really, everyone seems to love doing it *so much*! Animals can use tools, everyone agrees, they speak a language (albeit a cryptic one we happen not to understand) and they are capable of reasoning. Animals have advanced cognitive abilities and awareness of their surroundings, they have beliefs, desires, pains and emotions. They even are moral subjects on equal footing with rational creatures -- in fact, they are more virtuous than us ethically flawed human beings! On the other hand, if you admit that you're skeptical about these claims, you reveal yourself as an arrogant self-centered chauvinist. What is the source of this perceived need to insist that animals have minds?
posted by faustdick at 8:19 AM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


The look on the fish's face is priceless.
posted by hermitosis at 8:21 AM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Herons are not to be taken lightly. I shot a video of one in a field near my house. It was eating a small furry animal the size of a guinea pig (rat? I don't know). The local herons spend a good deal of time hunting in the fields instead of fishing.
posted by Goofyy at 8:22 AM on August 27, 2012


Oh, it swallowed the thing whole, whatever it was. Just like a snake.
posted by Goofyy at 8:23 AM on August 27, 2012


When they start bringing beer with them fishing, that will be the true sign of intelligence.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 8:25 AM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wanna see a bunch of lazy drunk herons fishing with dynamite.
posted by elizardbits at 8:29 AM on August 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Would this count as tool use?
posted by the_artificer at 8:46 AM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


That heron can't be too bright because he hasn't figured out the point of fishing is drinking beer and relaxing in the sun. If you catch a damn fish, you have to figure out what to do with it, which is entirely contrary to the lack of effort otherwise expended.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:49 AM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


faustdick: They even are moral subjects on equal footing with rational creatures -- in fact, they are more virtuous than us ethically flawed human beings! On the other hand, if you admit that you're skeptical about these claims, you reveal yourself as an arrogant self-centered chauvinist. What is the source of this perceived need to insist that animals have minds?

What is the source of the need to insist that they don't? Clearly their brains are doing something, or they wouldn't have them, no?
posted by Malor at 9:27 AM on August 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I love watching evolution in progress like this.
posted by dry white toast at 7:31 AM on 8/27
[+] [!]



Of all people, I thought you would have been the most frightened.
posted by Diablevert at 9:33 AM on August 27, 2012 [19 favorites]


I'm ridiculously fish-phobic, yet I clicked on this video. When the inevitable happened and there was SUDDENLY FISH on my screen I just about jerked backwards out of my chair in shock.

I was expecting just a little fish already halfway in the heron's mouth upon first strike, but still ... sometimes it isn't animals whose intelligence I have to question.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:35 AM on August 27, 2012


Far more impressive than the bread-fishing is just how that heron managed to somehow get that fish inside her.

Did she roll it up or something?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:35 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some Ravens in Middle-earth are capable of Speech and were allies of the Dwarves of Erebor, they lived at nearby Ravenhill. Around the time of the Battle of Five Armies, the Ravens were led by Roäc and constantly tell the dwarves about the oncoming army of Wood-elves and Lake-men. Ravens can apparently live for a long time as Roäc was 153 years old when he met Thorin Oakenshield and Company. Ravens can talk to dwarves and are friends to them.(source)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:55 AM on August 27, 2012


Stop with you're damn anthropomorphizing you egotistical apes!

Signed,

Animals
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


faustdick: "I love watching bird videos as much as the next guy, but I doubt that observations of this type prove that animals have anything like "consciousness" in a proper sense of the term. ... Animals have advanced cognitive abilities and awareness of their surroundings, they have beliefs, desires, pains and emotions. ... What is the source of this perceived need to insist that animals have minds?"

The mind is properly defined, imo, as the ability to hold a generative, internal conversation with one's self. This, however, does not require the existence of the "mind" in its popular sense - a non-physical source of person-hood that is separate from the brain and other neurophysical systems.

This non-physical "mind" is, under close scrutiny, identical to the "soul" of mythological origin, and serves the same purpose of anthropomorphising its owner to the status of personhood. This personhood status is required for us to give an animal praise or blame, i.e. to allow the animal to enter into our relativistic moral environment. Without access to that environment, it's impossible for the creature to be regarded by us as anything more than an automaton, following its genetic or natural or animalistic orders.

And That, friends, takes all the fun out of looking at animals! After all, have you ever tried to commend a river for its thoughtfulness, or a tree for its patience? These things can only be ascribed to creatures that are actually little people in disguise, i.e. those creatures with minds.
posted by rebent at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, if you admit that you're skeptical about these claims, you reveal yourself as an arrogant self-centered chauvinist. What is the source of this perceived need to insist that animals have minds?

Maybe, as he absentmindedly tosses bread at the fish, the heron gazes at his own reflection in the water and ponders the life choices he's made, wonders where all the years have gone, and whether he'll ever get that damn wireless card to work on his linux box.
posted by horsewithnoname at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I love watching evolution in progress like this.
posted by dry white toast at 7:31 AM on 8/27
[+] [!]

Of all people, I thought you would have been the most frightened.


Nope. I, for one, welcome our new Heron overlords.

(okay, having that quote teed up for me for a change made me for giddier than it should have)
posted by dry white toast at 9:58 AM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm kinda with faustdick on this one. Heck, put a bunch of philosophers in a room (or Mefites on an average day) and they'll argue pretty fiercely about whether we can infer consciousness even in humans from intentional behaviors--i.e., whether consciousness is a necessary attribute of intentional activity). The notion that this bird has to have a "theory of mind" to accomplish what it's doing is really shooting for the moon (one needn't attribute "mind" to the fish at all--all it requires is the knowledge that fish are more likely to be found in the presence of bread than not: which could be the result of some kind of gravitational pull between bread and fish for all we know).

We simply do not know enough about consciousness or the way the mind works to say anything useful about what this bird's actions mean for a subjective understanding of birdmindedness.
posted by yoink at 10:35 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ravens can talk to dwarves and are friends to them.

The ravens talk a lot, but the dwarves never answer in any kind of comprehensible fashion. In fact, ravens are divided on whether dwarves are truly intelligent or not. They spend an awful lot of time working, after all, and rarely hang out on tree branches and walls like sensible people. Contrarians point out warves do leave out sandwiches and beer sometimes, so that possibly points out to a sort of rudimentary intelligence. At any rate, they aren't assholes like the elves.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:47 AM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


they'll argue pretty fiercely about whether we can infer consciousness even in humans from intentional behaviors

Which, of course, is precisely one of the reasons why some of laugh at the folks who assume some strange quality of the human brain/body combo that exudes something so fundamentally different from the brain/body combos of other animals that those folks come to the bizarre conclusion that they must begin discussions of consciousness from the unfounded assumption that human animals have it and non-human animals don't.

It's just plain bizarre to start out from that assumption, knowing what we know - that is, very little - about consciousness in general.
posted by mediareport at 11:40 AM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


(...some of us laugh...)
posted by mediareport at 11:41 AM on August 27, 2012


OK, but does the heron understand the difference between good fishing and great fishing?
posted by never used baby shoes at 12:47 PM on August 27, 2012


I think that's really clever how he caught the fish but why is everyone missing the big story here?

GREEN HERONS HAVE EVOLVED THE ABILITY TO BAKE BREAD!

ThE number of things they would have had to figure out to do this is just astounding to me.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:53 PM on August 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Unless herons have evolved to bait fish somehow, we're seeing at least a primitive theory of mind at work

Several corvids show evidence of possessing a theory of mind; e.g. they'll pretend to make food caches or move caches they made while observed by other birds but only if they've previously engaged in cache-raiding themselves.
posted by junco at 1:04 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


this bird is more skilled at fishing than most humans

That's cause he doesn't have to deal with pointy hooks jabbing his wings and snarled knotty fishing line frustrating him to death.
posted by notreally at 1:10 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The account that convinced me both that animals have mental processes similar to our own and that AI is almost certainly possible:

In one of Stephen Jay Gould's essays he describes a researcher and student group who were studying the solitary Bee-Eating Wasp. The wasp catches bees in flight, paralyzes it with a sting, returns it to its lair which is a hole dug in the ground, and lays its eggs in the bee's body.

The class wanted to know how the wasp found its lair after foraging a considerable distance, and decided to test the theory that the wasp used visual scene recognition, pretty much as humans do. So they waited for the wasp to leave, and then carefully moved every landmark around the wasp's hole six inches in the same direction. When the wasp returned it plopped down with great accuracy six inches away from its hole, exactly where the hole should have been relative to the altered landscape.

What struck me, though, was what the wasp did next: It dropped its prey and began frantically crawling in erratic circles. Finally, after a minute or so it found the hole, went in and out several times, and apparently having reassured itself that this was home deposited its prey. Then the wasp spent several minutes hovering to and fro above the site, as if trying to reconcile then new layout.

What struck me is that this is exactly the way a human would react if a similarly godlike being pulled a similar trick on one of us. The wasp obvoiusly had a model of its environment in its head, which it used for navigation, and when it experienced cognitive dissonance became agitated and confused. This suggested to me that consciousness is a thing that might be very old, be capable of booting in a very small footprint, and be within the reach of computers that already exist.

Of course, anyone who has had certain kinds of pet -- parrots, corvids, some dog breeds -- will be left with no doubt that at least some animals can reason. It actually requires a bizarre act of faith to deny the obvious.
posted by localroger at 2:33 PM on August 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


but if there's any definition of intelligence that excludes the behaviour our dog showed that day - observing, planning, weighing strategies, choosing the best one and seeing it through despite having competing motives - I doubt it's very smart.

The dog we had when I was young was fantastically smart in lots of aspects, but one of the best things I ever saw her do was work out how to sound the horn in my parents' car. It was one of those cars with the horn in the middle of steering wheel, and at some point she must have put both paws on there to look out of the windscreen and sounded it by mistake - and then worked out that horn = humans returning to car.

After that you could leave her in the car for about ten minutes, fifteen if she was sleepy, and she'd curl up in the back and wait for you. Any longer than that and she'd sound the horn. It just became a normal part of our lives, although it must have seemed a bit odd to other people - "So how's work? Oh, yeah, yeah, me too. Especially in this weather. Well, funny you should say that, we were thinking of going to France this -" HOOOOOONNNNNNNKKKKKK! "That's the dog, we should be going. See you next week!"
posted by Catseye at 2:40 PM on August 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


The mind is properly defined, imo, as the ability to hold a generative, internal conversation with one's self.

Ah, then--we can just hook up two instances of Eliza to each other? I'll get to work on that . . .
posted by flug at 2:54 PM on August 27, 2012


It actually requires a bizarre act of faith to deny the obvious.

It really is a leap of faith they make, isn't it? "Well of *course* consciousness is unique to human beings! How could it not be?!"

It's an odd kind of fundamentalism, gift-wrapped in the trappings of philosophy and science and shit, but having little to do with, you know, what science actually tells us about the difficulty of asserting human consciousness as unique. How many examples like the above do you think they'll need before they start examining that worthless assumption? 10? 100? 1000?

Or will no amount of examples suffice to break through the wall of fundamentalist belief?
posted by mediareport at 3:59 PM on August 27, 2012


Meh! My cockatiel had that heron beat for tool use - he has 10 fingers and ten toes at his disposal with the right combination of annoying wheetie noises :D
posted by Calzephyr at 4:19 PM on August 27, 2012


Or will no amount of examples suffice to break through the wall of fundamentalist belief?

I'll go for door B, Bob. I mean, freaking crows in Japan drop nuts, ones that are too tough for them to crack themselves, into crosswalks, so the cars will crack them. They then wait for the light before going to retrieve their booty, and then know to either run or fly away when it turns green again.

I've known CHILDREN that wouldn't have been smart enough to work that out without help.

And then they started having serious problems with linemen taking down their nests (which they like to make with coat hangers, which shorts out power lines). So then they started building large numbers of decoys. I mean, think about that a minute; they're smart enough to realize not only that THEIR nest was destroyed, but that many others are being destroyed as well, that it's a widespread problem -- and they developed a somewhat organized response to the threat. Building widespread decoy nests, to something without opposable thumbs, is strategic thinking, of the same type as putting up inflatable tanks in WW2.

With that kind of evidence, insisting that humans are the only intelligent creatures simply demonstrates that you don't personally qualify. A bird that can understand the problem of widescale nest destruction, and then builds decoys to fool the nest destroyers, probably has more actual, useful intelligence than a human who would deny their sentience.

People who fight crows frequently describe it as a battle of wits, and it's a battle that the humans often lose.
posted by Malor at 6:47 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be fair, what a lot of the *awesome* observed animal behaviours are just that; behaviour.

I feel more towards that intelligence is the ability to acquire and alter behaviour to maximize some end.

A lot of chimpanzee "intelligent behaviour" observations, like tool use, has been observed to be transmissible which strongly indicates an "intelligent" component.

loquacious' clamshell-opening crow is another example, but did any other crow learn from this one's behaviour or do all crow clamshell-opening behaviour arise spontaneously (within a single crow) and the behaviour extincts with this one's passing? Has that crow decreased the mean time to box opening over time?

No doubt, this acquired behaviour will be a damned good thing for this crow's fecundity and general Darwinian fitness. However, it feels like a lot of people forget about the "niche" part of Darwinian evolution. It's not about being better at everything, it's about the resource-exploitation/exploited-preventation ratio. Niche areas tend to spawn species.

The previous is total devil's advocate crap but I think that definitions really need to be calibrated a bit better than they usually are between different points of view.
posted by porpoise at 8:15 PM on August 27, 2012


this bird is more skilled at fishing than most humans

Yeah right, I'd like to see him and his cousins try and deplete the oceans of fauna!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:25 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah right, I'd like to see him and his cousins try and deplete the oceans of fauna!

But of course you say this knowing full well that depleting the oceans of fauna doesn't represent "skill" in fishing so much as "short-sighted and ultimately self defeating foolishness".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:39 AM on August 28, 2012


Bah! I defy anyone to see the $14.99 Red Lobster Endless Shrimp Platter as "short-sighted and ultimately self defeating foolishness"!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:33 AM on August 28, 2012


The herons are a fairly ancient group of birds. Although bird fossils are rare, herons are exceptionally rare even by avian standards totaling fewer than 40 identified species. Herons first emerge in the fossil record some 60 -38 million years ago. Birds attributable to contemporary genera first occur about 7 million years ago.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:46 AM on August 28, 2012


Shoda, Yuichi; Mischel, Walter; Peake, Philip K. (1990). "Predicting Ardea Cognitive and Self-Regulatory Competencies from Egretta alba Delay of Gratification: Identifying Diagnostic Conditions". Developmental Psychology 26.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 3:56 PM on September 16, 2012


Whodunit? Crows Ask That Question, Too
posted by homunculus at 11:52 AM on September 22, 2012


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