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August 25, 2007

Clever, clever bird

Those clever clever crows. Not only can they use pieces of wire as tools to get food they want, but they can use pieces of wire to get other pieces of wire to get food they want! And what is this behavior called? Meta-tool use, obviously.

This fact makes me more convinced than ever that after we humans wipe ourselves out, crows are going to take over as the dominant species on the planet... forget Planet of the Apes, it's going to be Planet of the Crows. (via NewScientist)

A. H. Taylor, G. R. Hunt, J. C. Holzhaider and R. D. Gray, Spontaneous Metatool Use by New Caledonian Crows, Current Biology in press (2007).

p.s. In other news, I quite like the two recent studies that appeared in Science last week showing that researchers can induce out-of-body experiences in normal people using a trick of virtual reality (via Nature News and NYTimes. The scientific conclusion is that these experiences are some kind of hallucination of the mind, brought on by a confusing set of sensory inputs or a misprocessing of existing inputs (or both), and not evidence of a soul or anything supernatural. They have yet to explain why this kind of confusion often happens during brain death, but we'll have to wait for a fortuitous stroke or tumor to figure that out.

posted August 25, 2007 02:53 PM in Obsession with birds | permalink