Despite having a small brain size, ravens, crows and other members of the Corvidae family are as clever as chimps, a new study has found.
The work done Lund University researchers signifies that intelligence may be attributed to other factors such as brain cell density and brain structure, instead of just the actual brain size.
"Absolute brain size is not the whole story," said study author Can Kabadayi. He added that the team was able to discover that corvid birds exhibit good performance comparable to great apes despite their small brain size.
Do Birds Really Have "Birdbrains?"
Kabadayi and a team of international scientists performed an experiment on crows, ravens and jackdaws involving a cylinder test to decipher the species' inhibitory control or the ability to stay focused on a relevant stimuli in the midst of irrelevant stimuli.
As intelligence is quite challenging to test in animals, scientists used other measures for testing. One of those measures is inhibitory control.
First, the team trained the birds to get a treat from an opaque cylinder with holes on each end. They then repeated the same procedure, but this time using a transparent tube.
As per impulse, the animals were expected to go directly to the visible food. However, that was not the case as the ravens decided to enter the cylinder from the ends as they tried to get the treat.
Almost all the crows and jackdaws also did the same, with both species having a nearly 100 percent performance rate as gorillas and bonobos.
Kabadayi said their work shows that the brains of birds are quite efficient even if they are smaller. He also attributed the performance of the birds to other factors such as brain cell density.
There have been studies testing intelligence in animals before. Aside from inhibitory control, experts also looked into how well the species could ignore their animal impulses and manifest a more clever behavior.
The new study was actually already performed in 2014, wherein 36 varied animals were tested for inhibitory control. The subjects for the said study were mainly apes and primates.
The study concluded that great apes were the best performers in the test and that brain size plays a key role in animal intelligence. However, because they did not perform the study on corvid birds, Kabadayi's team set out to conduct the recent research.
There are much more to look at and find out about the association of intelligence and brain size and structure. The new study, however, clearly presents that birds are not weaklings when it comes to intelligence, as opposed to the popular "birdbrain" label being tagged on them.
The study was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal on April 20.