AUG 27, 2016 12:41 PM PDT

Betty the Crow Probably Wasn't a Genius Just Because She Bent Stuff

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Back in 2002, Betty the New Caledonian crow made headlines when she was observed bending a piece of garden wire into a hook-shaped tool to solve a puzzle made by researchers from Oxford University.

The video below illustrates this incredible behavior:
 


 
It was believed that this behavior to solve the puzzle meant that Betty had some sort of above-average intelligence for her species and had the ability to problem-solve on the fly.
 
Although the surprising feat of intelligence probably surprised many at the time, it’s becoming more and more known that there are a number of bird species that actually use “tools” they create to help search for food in the wild, and as such, Betty’s turning of the garden wire into a hook really doesn’t seem to be all that out of the ordinary.
 
A new idea published in Royal Society Open Science suggests it probably wasn’t above-average intelligence at all, as all crows seem to do similar tricks naturally in the wild. Although the wild tends to deal with twigs and other malleable materials, a piece of garden wire isn’t all that different.
 
Biologists from the University of St. Andrews had reportedly observed New Caledonian crows in their natural habitat and found that this sort of behavior is actually commonplace. They placed objects that could be used for tool-making in the habitat and waited to see what would happen.
 
“We had provided wild-caught crows with juicy treats hidden in wooden logs, as well as with their preferred plant material for tool manufacture,” said lead researcher Dr Christian Rutz “We were absolutely over the moon when the birds started making and using tools in our field aviaries.”
 
After it was all said and done, the birds had reportedly configured the materials the same was Betty had in her initial puzzle-solving experience, despite the fact that there was no puzzle to solve.
 
This conclusion leads researchers to believe that all wild crows of Betty’s kind may actually exhibit this behavior naturally without any above-average intelligence for their kind. The initial experiment was far too closed and too little was known about the species to draw conclusions.
 
“Our study is a powerful reminder of the importance of basic natural history research,” notes Dr Rutz: “When my Oxford colleagues studied Betty’s cognitive abilities almost 15 years ago very little was known about how these birds make and use tools in their natural tropical habitat. Our discovery of tool bending in wild New Caledonian crows has come as a complete surprise, and was the result of patient field research.”

Source: The Royal Society Publishing

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 18, 2019
Technology
DEC 18, 2019
Engineering Silk into Medical Devices
Scientists at Tufts University created an effective fabrication method for molding silk into medical devices. Silk is a biopolymer long known for its super...
DEC 22, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 22, 2019
Grizzly Bears Exploit 'Easy' Salmon Sources
Brown bears, also known in some parts of the world as grizzly bears, are renowned eaters of scrumptious wild freshwater salmon. But while most have witness...
JAN 03, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 03, 2020
Breathalyzers for Cannabis Users?
With Cannabis use on the rise across the country, scientists and law enforcement are working to develop technology to determine when a driver is stoned and...
JAN 10, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 10, 2020
Are Edibles the Safest Option for Marijuana Users?
Cannabis edibles are growing in popularity, while cannabis products become more widely accepted across the country and beyond. However, it looks like scien...
JAN 12, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 12, 2020
This is Why You Shouldn't Mess With Beached Whales
When large whales die, one of two things can happen: 1) their bodies can sink to the bottom of the ocean and go on to support smaller life forms; or 2) the...
JAN 21, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 21, 2020
Scientists Assess GHG Emissions Related to Palm Oil Land Conversion
Palm oil production remains problematic in several ways, and a new study from researchers at the University of Nottingham has quantified one of these probl...
Loading Comments...