Jul 13, 2017

The only non-apes we know can plan ahead: ravens

David Iliff / Wikipedia

Scientists have believed for some time that behaviors associated with the ability to plan ahead were unique to humans and other great ape species. But new research indicates ravens can also plan ahead somewhat, and give up an immediate reward for something even greater in the future.

What it means: Ravens and great apes haven't shared a common ancestor for 300 million years. If the science holds up in follow on studies, then it means this common ability to plan ahead appeared on two separate evolutionary paths – one for birds and one for great apes and then humans.

What they did: Researchers presented ravens with a variety of options to choose between an immediate reward, or something that they could use later for even greater rewards. The most conclusive test showed that the birds would wait for a tool to open all boxes with rewards inside, rather than choose to open just one box with an immediate reward inside. In fact, ravens scored higher than great apes in these tests of planning for bartering.

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