Scientists tested the mathematical abilities of crows with a kind of computer game.
Crows are able to understand the concept of zero, concludes a recent study.
The result may not seem miraculous at first glance if you think of zero only as empty. But crows understand the mathematical concept of zero, that is, zero as a significant thing and not just as a deficiency.
Result is impressive because zero is a relatively new invention in human mathematics as well.
There were predecessors to zero several thousand years ago, but the numbered zero was not born in India and independently in the Mayan Empire until 1,500–1,600 years ago.
Zero has been considered one of the greatest inventions of mankind because it revolutionized the calculation and virtually all of our modern technology. The study was published The Journal of Neuroscience journal.
Researchers tested the mathematical abilities of crows with a kind of computer game. They showed the test birds two screens with different amounts of points.
Birds were trained to show whether the screens had the same or a different number of points. If the screens had the same number of points, the birds were trained to either peck the square or move their heads. Two soot warblers acted as test birds.
At the same time at a time when points were being displayed on screens for crows, the researchers were monitoring what was happening in the crows ’brains.
When the crow bird saw a certain number, the researchers saw which neurons were ignited at the same time in the birds ’brains. Previous studies had already located brain neurons that corresponded to numbers one to four.
When the birds saw zero dots on the screen, a new area of their brain ignited, indicating that the crows recognized the zero value.
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Birds did not always succeed in the task for one reason or another, but the success rate in this and in previous studies has approximated almost 80 percent, much better by chance.
The researchers also learned from the failure of the birds one factor that confirmed the results.
“Crows more often mixed zero into one than, say, two. This result can only be explained if crows understand a blank screen as the smallest value in a sequence of numbers, ”the study leader Andreas Nieder commented IFL Science in a science website interview.
“These birds may not need to zero in on their daily lives, but research shows that crows are smart enough to learn this abstract concept,” Nieder continued.
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Crow birds are known to be very intelligent.
For example, previous studies have shown that crows have a level of consciousness that is assumed to be limited to humans and a few primates, the ability to combine memories of the past and present observations, and to make assumptions and act on them.
The intelligence of crows is very relevant in the study of intelligence. Mammals, like humans, and birds branched in different directions in evolution as early as an estimated 320 million years ago.
Yet crows and gray parrots, for example, have shown near-human intelligence and awareness in a number of different experiments.
Crows are capable, for example to identify different people’s faces and know how to distinguish between previously disadvantaged people, neutral and useful people. In addition to this, crows know how to tell their fellow species and also their chicks which people in a residential area are dangerous.
New Caledonian crows are also demonstrated downright the ingenuity of the ancient wise Archimedes. They have been found to understand how things dropped into the water change the height of the water. Birds use it to win rewards. This study Youtubevideo shows how crows work:
These crows also use Stone Age tools such as hooks.
Intelligence scientists have kept our wrinkled cortex the secret of the intelligence of humans, primates, and other mammals, which is completely missing from birds.
However, in the study, the neurons responsible for number recognition ignited in the cerebellum of crows, where the human cortex is also located. Birds have a structure in the cerebellum called a staple ball. It is responsible for many of the same functions as the cerebral cortex in humans.
“It was surprising that in this way, differently anatomically and independently developed cerebellum can understand zero in the same way,” Nieder notes.