Crows could hold the secret one day to enable people to understand any alien languages, according to German researchers at the University of Tubingen.
Scientists long suspected that birds from corvids family – which includes ravens, crows and magpies – are very smart.
Experts in neurobiology have shown that the crows brain produces intelligent behavior when the birds have to make strategic decisions in the same way the human brain works, despite the fact that humans and crows have a close common ancestor.
German researchers study provides the first information about how the brain functions of creatures that are not mammals – and this pattern may apply for alien life.
Lena and Andreas Nieder Veit, professor at Tubingen University in the German state of Baden -Württemberg, published a study in Nature Communications that provides valuable information about parallel evolution of intelligent behaviors.
“Many functions are performed differently in birds since a long evolutionary history separates us from these direct descendants of dinosaurs”, says Lena Veit.
“This means that the bird brain gives us an alternative that shows how intelligent behavior is achieved with a different anatomy”, she added.
Crows and primates have different brains, but cells that are given the decision-making processes are very similar. They reveal that a general principle reappeared regularly throughout evolutionary history of species.
“As we can draw valid conclusions about aerodynamics, comparing differently constructed wings of birds and bats, now we can draw conclusions about how the brain works by analyzing the functional similarities and differences in relevant brain regions in the brains of birds and those of mammals”, said Andreas Nieder.
Crows are so smart that behavioral biology experts have called them “feathered apes”, as these birds fabricate and use tools and are able to remember a large number of food places and plan social behavior depending on what other members of the flock are doing.
This level of intelligence may seem surprising, since bird brains are structured in a way fundamentally different from those of mammals, including primates – which are commonly used to study these behaviors.
Researchers at the University of Tubingen are first analyzed to study brain physiology intelligent behavior of crows. They have trained are a group of crows to run on the computer a set of memory tests.
Crows have been shown a series of images that had then to remember. Soon the birds had to choose one of the two pictures shown on the screen by touching it with his beak , depending on various conditions proposed.
One of the images on the screen was identical to the first image and the other was different. Sometimes, the game consists in choosing the same image. Sometimes, they had to select the other image.
Crows are capable of performing both tasks and to change behavior with a high degree of accuracy.
This demonstrates a high degree of concentration and mental flexibility that a few species have – which is a real effort even for humans.
Birds quickly executed these tasks even when they were presented new sets with other images. Researchers have noted the presence of neural activity ” nidopallium caudolaterale ” , a brain region associated with the highest level of perception in birds.
A group of neurons always responded when the crows had to choose the same image – and another group of cells always responded when making a choice based on the “different picture” rule.
Noting this brain activity, scientists could often predict the rule that birds would comply even before they make a choice.