June 23, 2024

Science – Study: Crows can plan the number of their calls in advance – Knowledge

Tübingen (dpa) – In the world of birds, crows are experts in numbers: according to a new study, crows can plan the number of their calls in a targeted way. Behavioral experiments conducted by researchers led by Andreas Nieder from the Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Tübingen show that animals can learn how often to call. “They can control exactly whether they want to make a call or not,” Nieder reported. His study was published in the journal Science.

The researchers trained three carrion crows (Corvus corone) to react to visual and audio stimuli: the birds were supposed to issue one to four calls after displaying different symbols or upon hearing certain tones. They should then complete the respective call sequence by clicking on the confirm button. “The three birds succeeded. They were able to count their calls sequentially,” Nieder was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his university. But there were also errors when the birds lost the ability to keep track of how many times they squawked.

The longer the reaction time between stimuli and calls, the longer the time required for more calls. In other words: the more songbirds are supposed to scream, the longer it takes for them to start calling.

The researcher continued that it was possible to know from the sound characteristics of the first call how many times the animals wanted to shout. “This suggests that crows use the information provided to form an abstract numerical concept, which they use to plan their sounds before making their calls.”

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Previous studies have documented the “outstanding” learning ability of crows and shown that the animals have an understanding of numbers. The ability to produce a certain number of sounds at will requires a highly sophisticated combination of numerical skills and vocal control. “Our results show that it is not limited to humans.”

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