04 February 2005

Bird Brains over Mammals

Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen is for the birds:
... behavioral studies in recent years have proved that many birds have more pallium power than your average mammal.

Even seemingly moronic pigeons can categorize objects as "human-made" vs. "natural"; discriminate between cubistic and impressionistic styles of painting; and communicate using visual symbols on computers, according to evidence compiled by the consortium, which spent seven years on the project with input from scientists around the world.

Some birds can play games in which they intentionally tell lies. New Caledonian crows design and make tools. Scrub jays can recall events from specific times or places -- a trait once thought unique to humans. And perhaps most impressive, parrots, hummingbirds and thousands of other species of songbirds are able to teach and learn vocal communication -- the basic skill that makes human language possible. That's a variant of social intelligence not found in any mammal other than people, bats, and cetaceans such as dolphins and whales.
Bats? Brainy as a bat? Whoa!

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