Rooks perceive support relations similar to six-month-old babies

Christopher D. Bird, Nathan J. Emery


Some corvids have demonstrated cognitive abilities that rival or exceed those of the great apes; for example, tool use in New Caledonian crows, and social cognition, episodic-like memory and future planning in Western scrub-jays. Rooks appear to be able to solve novel tasks through causal reasoning rather than simple trial-and-error learning. Animals with certain expectations about how objects interact would be able to narrow the field of candidate causes substantially, because some causes are simply ‘impossible’. Here we present evidence that rooks hold such expectations and appear to possess perceptual understanding of support relations similar to that demonstrated by human babies, which is more comprehensive than that of chimpanzees.


    • Received August 11, 2009.
    • Accepted September 18, 2009.
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