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Magpies Are Self-Aware

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the who-you-callin'-birdbrain dept.

Science 591

FireStormZ writes "Magpies can recognize themselves in a mirror, confounding the notion that self-awareness is the exclusive preserve of humans and a few higher mammals. It had been thought only four species of apes, bottlenose dolphins, and Asian elephants shared the human ability to recognize their own bodies in a mirror. But German scientists reported on Tuesday that magpies, a species with a brain structure very different from mammals, could also identify themselves. It had been thought that the neocortex brain area found in mammals was crucial to self-recognition. Yet birds, which last shared a common ancestor with mammals 300 million years ago, don't have a neocortex, suggesting that higher cognitive skills can develop in other ways."

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I knew magpies are quite "smart" (5, Interesting)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670613)

It has been known that magpies can solve various kinds of mechanical puzzles, much better than most (all?) other birds and even mammals. Now this isn't related to self-avareness, I guess, but it is quite interesting nonetheless.

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (5, Funny)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670665)

Several other birds are also known for pretty amazing intellectual feats (symbolic language is a pretty famous one), considering their brain size.

It's probably because of those scary velociraptor genes.

Crows, for one (5, Informative)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670693)

Crows have been observed making tools [sciencemag.org] and using them.

Birds are in general a lot smarter than we've given them credit for. It might be time to rethink the term 'bird brain'.

Re:Crows, for one (4, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671281)

Birds are in general a lot smarter than we've given them credit for.

My chubby cat is not so impressed with the intelligence of the birds in our back yard.

Seriously, anyone who has ever had a parrot or macaw as a pet can tell you they're smarter than most people would think. And more social.

Re:Crows, for one (5, Interesting)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671303)

Don't give them all so much credit.

My "automatic vision systems" teacher gave an interesting lecture about research on hens. Hens are awfully dumb. They have an instinctive reaction to images of weasels (panic/run) and to sound (tweeting) of small chickens ("herd/care"). The researchers made a model of a weasel that was making the chicken noise. Hens exposed to this experienced software failure: they would freeze and stop reacting to all other external signals/impulses until the chirping weasel was removed. :)

Re:Crows, for one (5, Interesting)

roaddemon (666475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671359)

I've always noticed that, despite their propensity for hanging around roadkill on busy highways, I've never seen a dead crow on the road.

Re:Crows, for one (4, Informative)

TedRiot (899157) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671411)

I remember reading somewhere that they have quite advanced learning mechanisms. It is enough that one of them gets hit by a car and the rest who saw the incident know not to get hit by cars.

Re:Crows, for one (5, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671363)

The reason we believe that animals aren't conscious, and are like little automaton, is because it allows us to treat them with callous disregard. Humans who are ideologically unbound from natural sympathy and empathy and treat other animals with callous disregard achieve dominance over their environment.

We do the same thing to the world itself. We are not OF this place, we are simply IN this place, temporarily, after which our soul will leave. So, we can treat the world itself with callous disregard, without consequence.

We also do this to other humans. They don't have a soul, only we have a soul. Therefore, we do not belittle ourselves when we belittle them, because we are so much more than they are, while they are simply creatures of the muck, like animals.

This ruthless perspective is an overwhelmingly effective tool. Therefore, it is the truth. The rest is just supporting mythology.

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (1)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670755)

Is there any hypothesis about how brain size relates to intelligence and sapience?

You always hear people saying it isn't proportional, yet it seems counter-intuitive that you could get that much interesting stuff happening in such a small volume of nerve cells!

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (4, Interesting)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670815)

It's not that much the brain size , as the brain size in proportion to the body. The bigger the body , the more brain mass is required to control the body.

So a small creature with a relatively big head , could be as smart as a human being or more.

A big creature with a small brain , would be completely dumb.

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (3, Funny)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670823)

>>A big creature with a small brain , would be completely dumb.

Sounds like my ex-wife!

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (2, Interesting)

KGIII (973947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671013)

Magpies also have been known to kick the shit out of people. Some of them even going so far as to attack just a single person over and over again.

I had a lady friend who was in Cann River, OZ and before visiting she'd had a magpie attack and beat the hell out of her head. She was all sorts of embarassed and it was even still showing where it had really beat the hell out of her. (I learned, later, that the mailman got it much worse on a regular basis there.)

So, yeah...

I'm going with sounds like my ex as well. Maybe that's the real reason why they used to call women "birds" back before it became politically incorrect to do so.

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670819)

Slightly off-topic but within humans increased brain size does increase intelligence and cognitive reserve (ie resilience to brain diseases).

I would guess at the species level it has more to do with the number of neurons, the average number of connections for each neuron and the ways the different areas are connected, but I don't know.

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (3, Interesting)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670833)

Brain size in humans has less to do with intelligence as does brain structure. For example, Einstein's brain [wikipedia.org] was not larger than normal but was missing some structures typically found and other regions were larger than normal.

To my knowledge there has never been any correlation found between brain size and intelligence in humans. If you have a citation I would like to see it for my own edification.

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (3, Interesting)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670863)

Oh, the correlation was found, but you had to look at the evidence in a "special" way:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craniometry [wikipedia.org]

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (1)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670935)

More glial cells, I heard. Something to do with there being a greater flow of information between the left and right lobes of his brain. (I saw that on TV so it may be wrong.)

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (5, Funny)

maglor_83 (856254) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670975)

I saw that on TV so it may be wrong.

What?!

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (1)

G0rAk (809217) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671055)

But I read it on the internet, so it must be true.

Experimental evidence to the contrary (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671259)

To my knowledge there has never been any correlation found between brain size and intelligence in humans. If you have a citation I would like to see it for my own edification.

Ah but by experiment we know that reduction in brain size leads to a loss of intelligence in most people, so it stands to reason that brain size matters.

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (5, Interesting)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670891)

I studied neural nets at University (years ago, I'm sure it's move on a lot since then) and this seems a hopeful turn-up.

Clearly, it'll be a very, very long time before there are computers with enough memory or power to model a mammalian brain. On the other hand, an avian brain seems to have extremely useful capabilities and is far, far more compact. Perhaps something useful can be inferred from the greater volume-to-power ratio of a magpie's grey matter?

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670961)

god I loved artificial neural nets, I never learned as much about them as I would have liked to in Uni but I programmed up a few very simple ones right after the class where they were explained to us.

I gotta go spend some time in the library reading up on them...

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671029)

Is there any hypothesis about how brain size relates to intelligence and sapience?

Apparently it's the number of connections, and not the size. Or it's the size ratio compared to the rest of the body. Or it's the structure. The above article suggest that the neocortex was supposed to be pretty important, but now that apparently isn't all that necessary either.

So basically, we still know nothing.

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670781)

I have one more : my dog recognizes itself in the mirror.

so add dogs to the list .

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (2, Insightful)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670897)

Have you mirror mark tested your dog? You have to think of ways to differentiate between recognition and self-recognition, i.e. can your dog tell that it's itself or does it just recognise a non-threatening, non-responsive playmate, or even just a flat object?

Dogs are very sensitive to smell as a part of identity, I'm not sure a mirror would 'work' for them anyway.

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (2, Interesting)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671221)

I have two dogs and they can recognize both themselves in a mirror and me in a mirror. It's interesting actually - introducing them to the mirror as puppies, you can tell they think at first it is another dog, but after interaction they start to understand.

I've always thought it is sheer human arrogance to think that we are the only ones that are self aware. Animals are far smarter than we give them credit for.

I guess for some scientists it makes them feel better to think that the animals they are torturing aren't self aware and don't have any feelings.

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671341)

Presumably since you're replying to a question about mirror-marking to test for self awareness, you've tried this with your dogs. You should write up your results and publish them.

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (0, Flamebait)

nawcom (941663) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670949)

I have one more : my dog recognizes itself in the mirror.

News update: Dogs aren't asexual. Either that or you consider your pets visible non-living objects. I'll be sure the Humane Society will pay you a visit.

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671109)

What's that got to do with anything?

Re:I knew magpies are quite "smart" (4, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671285)

Leave him alone! He's self aware and it probably took him ages to peck out the characters on his keyboard.

As a fellow magpie I understand his point perfectly.

my dog... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24670615)

Can do it too. Does this mean that he is super smart? (It wouldn't surprise me, the bastard uses his paws to try and trap my arm when we're playing)

Re:my dog... (1)

smashin234 (555465) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670677)

Apperantly so...

And to top that off my cat recognizes himself too in the mirror too. And on the 10 o'clock news, gerbils can recognize themselves in the mirror!

Re:my dog... (1)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671019)

I am sure cats do. Sometimes if I face the mirror with my sisters cat behind me to the side and I call her, she doesn't look at the back of my head, she looks at the mirror eyeballing me!

Re:my dog... (5, Interesting)

nawcom (941663) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670979)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_test [wikipedia.org]

Please understand what self-recognition in a mirror is. It has been known for a long time that dogs recognize their own scent, but with their black-and-white eyesight they have never shown any signs of recognizing themselves in a mirror, at least not in any social sense.

Food? (2, Funny)

sckeener (137243) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670627)

I had issues with self-aware animals being used for testing or being killed for food or tusks....

Now I have to worry about magpies? damn....I loves me Magpie meat.

Re:Food? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24671125)

don't worry, just pick another artificial line to justify your killing of innocent animals. Maybe you can pick the ability to soft-shoe. Then you can sleep at night.

Re:Food? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24671251)

Especially Maggot Pies (see etym. of 'Magpie')...

Magpies are evil. (5, Interesting)

acehole (174372) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670651)

In Australia, when its nesting season for Magpies they swoop people who go within their territory. Now I had to walk a fair way to catch a bus which just happened to intersect with a couple of magpies. One particular time I had one swoop, peck and draw some blood on some demon birdesque fly-by. I ran and took shelter at a nearby mall and waited about 5 minutes or so. I saw other people walking around and assumed that the coast was clear and went on my merry way. However, said demon bird was waiting for me and attacked again. Why it didnt attack any of the other potential targets and instead wait for me I'll never know.

The bird replies: (2, Insightful)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670683)

"Looking at your posting history, you have entirely too many /. comments with Subject=='Hrmm'"

Re:The bird replies: (3, Funny)

acehole (174372) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670695)

chicks dig consistency.

Re:The bird replies: (3, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670723)

Yeah, but after the chicks grow up, they get off digg and spend more time on /. instead.

Re:The bird replies: (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670759)

There are chicks on /. !?

Or are you saying chicks never grow up?

Re:The bird replies: (0, Redundant)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670795)

Oh, grow up they do, eventually chirping: "Fark this nest, we no digg it no mo'."

Re:Magpies are evil. (3, Informative)

Bob54321 (911744) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670711)

And for a bit of bird watcher trivia... Australian magpies are in a completely different family than their European and American counterparts.

Re:Magpies are evil. (1)

acehole (174372) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670767)

I think they branch off into the beer drinking species.

Re:Magpies are evil. (3, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670887)

What is the airspeed of an unladen, drunken Australian magpie that is pining for the fjords?

According to Wikipedia... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24671147)

195km/h [wikipedia.org]

Re:According to Wikipedia... (1)

KodePhreak (809614) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671299)

195km/h [wikipedia.org]

And wearing an icecream container on your head with eyes drawn on the back is supposed to be a great deterrent.. :/

Re:Magpies are evil. (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671245)

But still pretty smart. They used to show up at the butcher across from the office every day at the same time and knock (peck) on the door until he came out and gave them some meat.

Re:Magpies are evil. (4, Interesting)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670739)

These stories are common, and my best guess is that they recognise individual people. Or at least, they think they do. I would guess that someone who they thought looked like you was at some stage a threat to them or their nest, maybe throwing rocks or otherwise exhibiting aggressive behaviour. After that, they'll start attacking them on sight to try to keep them away; and since you look similar enough, they treat you the same way. On the other hand, maybe it's even more general than that. Simply a way of walking, or particular shapes, or particularly colour combinations you wear, etc.

A friend of mine with twins has noticed that they will taken an instant liking or dislike to certain people, presumably based purely on how they look or sound. The assumption being that the babies are okay with people who resemble their family members, but get uncomfortable around people that look "strange". Maybe it's something similar to that.

We had magpies around for years because we used to feed them, and they'd nest in our yard sometimes and usually would nest pretty close by. In at least a decade of seeing them every day I've never had a problem with being swooped by them. The closest was one female magpie in particular that got very used to us over the years, and would make a habit of flying uncomfortably close in order to get attention. It was never aggressive though, merely a nuisance - like a dog that keeps hanging around right at your feet so you're always almost stepping on it. (It did that too.)

Re:Magpies are evil. (4, Funny)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670789)

Had a similar experience with crows.

I was walking through the park and obviously got too near a nest of something. I noticed two started to circle way above my head. My first thought was "Cool" because I was heavily into the goth thing at the time. After a few more feet they attacked. No pecking, but flapping wings in front of my face, diving at my head, that sort of stuff. Nobody else walking along that way was targeted.

People watching they would have seen a goth in a leather trenchcoat stumbling, waving his arms, running and yelling. Looking back, that must have been quite funny to watch.

Re:Magpies are evil. (3, Funny)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671069)

I misread your first line as:

Had a similar experience with cows.

Try re-reading that entire message again with cows in mind. It certainly evokes an interesting mental image!

that must have been quite funny to watch.

A goth being buzzed by cows? I would pay to see that!

Re:Magpies are evil. (5, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670871)

I saw other people walking around and assumed that the coast was clear and went on my merry way. However, said demon bird was waiting for me and attacked again. Why it didnt attack any of the other potential targets and instead wait for me I'll never know.

Tippi Hedren, is that you?

Re:Magpies are evil. (1)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671035)

This is for everyone but I'm replying to you. go to iTunes and look for a series of podcasts called 'Ted Talks'. There is one concerning magpies and how they have adapted to the human environment better than we have adapted to the world. They talk in particular that magpies can recognise individuals and attack them in revenge, the only way to avoid it is to wear a disguise. Even after a few years they can still pick you out if it is the same magpies.

Re:Magpies are evil. (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671353)

This is for everyone but I'm replying to you. go to iTunes and look for a series of podcasts called 'Ted Talks'. There is one concerning magpies and how they have adapted to the human environment better than we have adapted to the world. They talk in particular that magpies can recognise individuals and attack them in revenge, the only way to avoid it is to wear a disguise. Even after a few years they can still pick you out if it is the same magpies.

load rifle, adjust scope, train on nest, blam blam.

Re:Magpies are evil. (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671043)

I was commenting on this a bit ago, before seeing your post, what part of OZ are you from? I am from the States and, well, I had a lady friend who had the shit kicked out of her by a magpie and later was there and found (and watched) a postman actually get the crap beat out of him daily. I was greatly amused and you folks should not get yanks that drunk constantly... But it was fun.

Take a swipe at them (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671309)

Stand your ground when they swoop and try to hit them. After you do this a few times, and especially if you manage to connect with one, they'll never bother you again.

FirstBird (0, Offtopic)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670653)

Aves FTW!

grey parrots as well (5, Interesting)

fsiefken (912606) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670681)

Lookup the intelligent grey parrots Alex or N'kisi, of which the intelligence has been compared to the intelligence of 6 year old human. Their intelligence might have evolved as a as "a consequence of their history of cooperative feeding as largely tree-dwelling birds in central Africa" (wikipedia: gray parrots). It might be that mirror neurons play an important role in the developmenet of intelligence: "A mirror neuron is a neuron which fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another (especially conspecific) animal. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of another animal, as though the observer were itself acting. These neurons have been directly observed in primates, and are believed to exist in humans and in some birds. In humans, brain activity consistent with mirror neurons has been found in the premotor cortex and the inferior parietal cortex." (wikipedia mirror neuron).

Re:grey parrots as well (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671095)

Well, they should be able to visit each other in the hospital, but I draw the line at letting them get married.

Excellent news. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24670689)

Now we can punish the thieving bastards by putting them in prison instead of just shooting them.

I dunno.... (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670699)

I have quite a few folks who have no idea who the fuck they are or what they are doing. Hell, they look surprised when they take a breath.

Now if you are trying to make me feel bad for my can of bug killer. Get bent! If they had a can of human killer, don't think for a minute that they wouldn't use it.

If they are self aware, then they have all that goes with it, ego, need for power, etc... They will get you.

Odd experiment in self awareness (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24670707)

A few years ago they tried the red dot on the forehead mirror test with Congressmen but got no reaction. As a control they tried taping a $100 bill to their foreheads and all quickly recognized the bill and reached for it. In an even more bizarre twist they seem to be able to find the bill even when blindfolded. They seemed to sniff the air so it was assumed they could smell the bill. Even stranger still when they taped a $1 bill to their foreheads it got no reaction even when they weren't blindfolded. The researchers concluded Congressmen were amazing creatures worthy of more study. As to them being self aware the tests were inconclusive.

Re:Odd experiment in self awareness (2, Funny)

JosKarith (757063) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670801)

And as an added bonus PETA won't complain when you use Politicians for "Forcible Ballistic Impact tests" instead of pigs.

Birds of a feather (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24670731)

It would be very interesting to see similar studies conducted with crows, ravens and other members of the Corvidae family.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvidae

Re:Birds of a feather (3, Interesting)

Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670895)

I've seen crows repeatedly charge into a (reflective) window thinking that it's another crow attacking them. It's not a "red dot" test, but it shows some lack of self-awareness.

duh! (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670747)

Haven't these guys ever seen Heckyll and Jekyll?

Roadside magpies (5, Interesting)

kobotronic (240246) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670783)

Watching the roadkill feeding magpies cooly walk around just behind the white road lines, you can tell they have worked out a pretty solid theory for how cars move and that they understand how the cars are dangerous hazards but nevertheless predictable and avoidable. Other birds simply take flight in panic and some don't even recognize cars as a hazard - dumb turkeys and pheasants dumbly just obliviously waddle out in traffic.

In Tokyo crows - corvid relatives of magpies - have been observed figuring out how to exploit the traffic signal cycles. The crows drop nuts in the path of the cars, in the middle of the pedestrian crossings, and patiently sit overhead waiting for the light to change so they can go down and have a look and pick up the nuts crushed by the car tires. Maybe these crows developed a theory of cars as practical and dependable "thing crushers" - producing crispy roadkill and other delicious crush jobs.

Fascinating birds.

Re:Roadside magpies (5, Funny)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670855)

Pheasants are one of the dumbest creatures imaginable. Ants have more nous. Are they a product of selective breeding like cows and sheep? If so, perhaps they've been bred for stupidity. Also politicians.

I was walking in the forest near home once with my little boy when we saw a pheasant meandering along. When it saw us it froze and stood there stock still, presumably hoping we wouldn't notice it.

When my son saw it, naturally (for a three year old) he charged straight towards it with his arms out, laughing. The pheasant looked pretty surprised and eventually bolted for the nearest bush. Hilariously, it just stuck it's head in while it's body and legs remained flat on the floor, completely exposed.

Possibly one of the dumbest things I've ever seen.

I think an animal should know it's in big trouble when it's easy meat for a human toddler.

Re:Roadside magpies (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24671093)

Most pheasants are not wild - at least here in the UK. They're reared then released as shotgun fodder. This might explain why they seem stupid.

No experience of the outside world.

Re:Roadside magpies (5, Funny)

macshit (157376) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671113)

When my son saw it, naturally (for a three year old) he charged straight towards it with his arms out, laughing. The pheasant looked pretty surprised and eventually bolted for the nearest bush. Hilariously, it just stuck it's head in while it's body and legs remained flat on the floor, completely exposed. Possibly one of the dumbest things I've ever seen.

Perhaps the rest of the peasants were on the other side of the bush.... waiting....

Re:Roadside magpies (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671175)

Ever seen a moose? They're like bovine creature stupid. Shoulda seen it when they had laws protecting them (here in Maine) from hunting. We eventually had so many of them that they were killing drivers on a regular basis. Not just from people smashing into them but from doing things like jumping up and down on top of the vehicle and killing the people inside. We now cull the herds in a lottery so it has improved some. They are some fricken' stupid.

Re:Roadside magpies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24671199)

mmm....

I come from a rural village in England, and so I drive the small, windy country roads a lot.

Pheasants are incredibly stupid animals. They often run at cars or just stand, frozen in the middle of the road. Most animals know not to try and make friends with cars...

Re:Roadside magpies (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671401)

Hilariously, it just stuck it's head in while it's body and legs remained flat on the floor, completely exposed.
  Possibly one of the dumbest things I've ever seen.
 

It then meandered to a polling station, and voted republican.

Crows and cars, in Europe too (1)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670969)

I told my mother about these japanese crows, and it turns out that she observed the same behaviour where she lives. I didn't see it myself, but I noticed, indeed, a couple crows sitting on the side of the road, watching cars drive by. So it's at least plausible that they do it too in Europe.
I have to wonder how they got the idea; I doubt they watch Attenborough!

Re:Crows and cars, in Europe too (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671219)

A small, probably idiotic, observation that was new to us... My wife and I were in a field earlier this summer and it happened to be when it was just prior to a thunderstorm. The lightning would flash and then seemingly millions of fireflies would all light up in response to it. They weren't flashing any messages or patterns that we could see prior, then the lightning would flash and they'd all flash back in giant waves of, well, lightning bug flashes.

It didn't happen just once, it happened over and over. We stayed out there until it rained watching the low-level foreworks display. Big Mother Nature would orchestrate and the heat lightning would sear the sky and Little Mother Nature's critters would give the ground effects. While Big Momma was preparing another charge they'd be very sporadic but within 10 to 15 seconds of the discharge they'd all light up the field so well that we could see each other's faces in the dark.

I sometimes wonder if we define intellect improperly. Can you, or I, go naked into the jungle and survive? We are supposed to be the most fit. I know I probably can't and I actually hunt, fish, and think I'm pretty adept at survival. Yet we think of things like apes as less intelligent.

Sometimes I think cats and dogs rule the planet. We work for them, we feed them, we wander behind them and scoop up their refuse, and we groom them while keeping them healthy. They just let us think that they are dumb because they're smart enough to not bother communicating with a beast as dumb as a human.

Re:Crows and cars, in Europe too (1)

oever (233119) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671355)

Easy! [wikipedia.org]

Re:Crows and cars, in Europe too (1)

oever (233119) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671393)

Easy: Morphic resonance [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Roadside magpies (1, Interesting)

KGIII (973947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671121)

I am not sure what lines you want to draw between the two but, well, I live in the United States of America.

The other day I had the enjoyable experience of showing my girlfriend the American Bald Eagle in situ. Err... Yeah... It wasn't posing or being held on someone's arm or the likes, it was wild.

Anyhow, it was in the road, on a blind corner, eating roadkill, and she was driving and almost hit the damned thing.

Side note: I'm pretty sure that, in this State, you're going right straight to jail, not even getting $200, if you paste a bald eagle with your car. She missed it, fortunately.

No ones done it yet? (3, Funny)

Barny (103770) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670785)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of them!

Re:No ones done it yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24670869)

Imagine a Beowulf tiding of them!

Maybe a little more appropriate.

Re:No ones done it yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24671023)

In soviet russia, I imagine a beowolf cluster of magpies welcoming their new slashdotter overlords

Science stuck in 1902? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24670799)

Seriously, what in the fuck are these scientists stuck 100 years ago in the past and then amazed that other animals are self aware? WTF?

My opinion: Every single animal(of the pet type) in existence that I have seen can be taught what their reflection is in a mirror. Most don't know it offhand. This includes rats, although maybe not snakes or spiders...

We already know birds talk to each other and use 'tools' to get a job done. This isn't news to anyone with half a fucking brain.

Self Aware or Vanity Test? (4, Interesting)

Nymz (905908) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670803)

I wouldn't rule out other creatures being self aware based on a visual sensory test, as a sense of self may be more strongly defined by other senses or perceptions. More likely the mirror test could tell us how preoccupied a creature is with their looks, so what would you call a creature that constantly looks for ways to compare itself with others?

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?

Birds are more intelligent then people think (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24670807)

Birds actually have more brains than people realise - literally.

While they may not have a mammalian brain, they haven't been idle. Once they diverged from the rest of the raptor dinosaurs (or possibly before it, based on some evidence of mating/nesting habits), birds developed another brain 'layer' much like mammals did. This layer was not the same as the mammal one, but it was nonetheless more sophisticated than the reptilian brain stem we all inherit.

Certainly, birds have shown remarkable intelligence in various studies.

More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_intelligence

"In recent years it was realized that certain birds have developed high intelligence entirely convergently from mammals such as humans."

Problems with the mirror mark test (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24670843)

The mirror mark test is long known to be a very non-definitive method for testing for self awareness. For one, it is subject to the "Clever Hans" effect, so named after a horse who could allegedly perform simple addition. For two, it assumes that if the animal moves to view the mark better that it is aware that the mark is on its own body. By placing the mark on an obvious place on the body, movements for better viewing on another individual would be the same as movements for better viewing on your own body in a mirror. For three, it uses one type of control but not an important one. The control most often use is a dot on a nonobvious place on the body. For example, a black dot on black feathers. However the most important control would be to place a mark on another individual and see if the animal responds to that.

Not the first time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24670885)

Skynet became self-aware on August 6, 1997.

Re:Not the first time... (2, Funny)

I cant believe its n (1103137) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671027)

Skynet became self-aware on August 6, 1997.

Oops, we forgot its birthday this year again. I really hope it won't make a big deal about it.

Re:Not the first time... (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671385)

Skynet became self-aware on August 6, 1997.

Oops, we forgot its birthday this year again. I really hope it won't make a big deal about it.

That depends, would you consider killing every single human on Earth a big deal?

It had been thought... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24670911)

It had been thought only four species of apes, bottlenose dolphins, Asian elephants and some select few C# programmers

But pigeons have religion.... (1)

darinfp (907671) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670927)

Skinner proved that long ago...

Skynet... (2, Funny)

GBC (981160) | more than 5 years ago | (#24670967)

If they are already self-aware, maybe we need to focus our resistance efforts on the magpies rather than a future computer system. Dark tidings indeed...

Scientist To Do List - Thursday 21st August (0, Offtopic)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671067)

|_| Get showered

|_| Have breakfast

|_| Pack briefcase

|_| Get girlfriend

I Call Shenanigans (1)

Cycon (11899) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671087)

It had been thought only four species of apes, bottlenose dolphins, and Asian elephants shared the human ability to recognize their own bodies in a mirror.

I remember many years ago having a puppy sleeping at the end of my bed wake up in the middle of the night and start barking at its own reflection in the mirror across the room. It was startled at first, but after five or ten seconds worked out that the "other dog" was ... not another dog.

Sure, its anecdotal but the puppy saw another dog at first and if it didn't finally "recognize [its] own body in [that] mirror" then how else to explain what went on?

No news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24671103)

This is no news. It was known about magpies for long ago. Already about 3 years ago I saw a BBC documentary about self-awareness and they have shown that a magpie recognizes a red dot on her own body in a mirror. Unlike many other animals. Crows shows similar level of intelligence.

Dead Birdie (1)

LabRat007 (765435) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671149)

I wish they'd do a better job recognizing themselves in my windows.

There is no God (-1, Flamebait)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671153)

We are not God's special creatures "made in his image." We are not completely unique on this planet. We don't have a soul or a spirit. There is nothing about us that isn't observable elsewhere with the possible exception of our success as a species at the top of the food chain.

These are the kinds of things that articles like these are trying to say without saying so.

Interestingly enough, though, faith trumps all other arguments... no one with faith will ever listen to reason like this or any other reason for that matter.

SO Bring on the Imperialism... (0, Offtopic)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671345)

God or no God, the USA is the best.

If there is a god, then, the USA is the best because we are following His will to spread liberty throughout the land and let people discover Christ of their own volition. Thus, it pleases God that George Bush invades Iraq to bring the flame of liberty.

Now, if there is no god, there is no notion of equality, because equality is a logical construction of the soul that says we are equal because the most important thing we have is the thing we cannot measure.

So, we measure.

We look at men and women, different ethno-cultures, and we can see that each has had varying degrees of economic success and skills. It's only natural then that better cultures should dominate the weaker and, rather than calling imperialism evil, it only seems rather fitting that the advances made by superior cultures should be imposed upon the weaker.

Given those measurements, one can easily see that in per-capita GDP, size of military, number of cable tv channels, that the Iraqi culture was inferior and it was good that George Bush the GREAT invaded Iraq to bring American capitalism to them.

The point really is, of course, that even if you succeeded in getting rid of God, you'll never get rid of imperialism. If anything, you'd make it a lot more arguable. If we got no souls, there's no point of safeguarding them through self restraint.

Yes, you can be one of those libs that equates jumping at a strange sound like it might be the cops when you are all high and then realize it's the pizza that you forgot you ordered.. but, that sort of paranoia and trying to make some kind of a culture out of it is just silly for those who don't smoke weed or don't like pizza.

Wierd (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671205)

I still don't quite understand though how he gets in there in the first place or why Magpies think they look him ! Silly birds, this is hardly any proof of intelligence.

brain size = amount of nerves (1)

ramul (1103299) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671323)

I was under the impression that brain size was more or less linear to the amount of nerves (eg sensations, muscle activators) in the animal. Elephants have a lot of mass to feel things with and therefore a lot of brain. Doesnt mean they are doing my homework though

What about a water fountain? (2, Insightful)

kungfu_larry (1234040) | more than 5 years ago | (#24671335)

Don't Birds see a reflection of themselves in still water?

Don't they drink as opposed to fly away fearing for their safety?

Is this not a sign of self-awareness?

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