Feeds

Ravens' secret sign code probed

Saying 'nevermore' etc with beak gesture, seemingly

Intelligent flash storage arrays

A conspiracy of ravens may be conspiring more than we ever thought, as researchers have discovered that the carrion-scoffing birds use their beaks to gesture and communicate.

Raven croaking

Raven croaking. Credit: Franco Atirador

Previously, so-called deictic gestures – such as pointing to signify "look" and holding something out to someone to signify "take" – were considered solely the province of human beings and our nearest relatives, the great apes.

The gestures are considered highly intelligent and the precursor to speech as it's the first use of a symbol – using one thing to mean something else.

Children use these gestures between the ages of nine and 12 months, before they first start talking, and the behaviour has also been seen in great apes, but quite rarely.

Now, two scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the University of Vienna are claiming that the raven also uses deictic gestures.

After two years of observing the storytelling abilities of wild ravens in Austria, Thomas Bugnya and Simone Pika said that the birds use their beaks to both show and offer objects like moss, stones and twigs, usually to the opposite sex.

Ravens have long been known to be highly intelligent, evidenced by high degrees of cooperation with each other. But this is the first time they have been seen to be communicating in a similar way to primates.

"Gesture studies have too long focused on communicative skills of primates only. The mystery of the origins of human language, however, can only be solved if we look at the bigger picture and also consider the complexity of the communication systems of other animal groups," said Pika.

The study was published in Nature Communications. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.