Feeds

Ravens' secret sign code probed

Saying 'nevermore' etc with beak gesture, seemingly

A new approach to endpoint data protection

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. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?