Are people and apes the only ones that can plan ahead? Quoth the raven ‘nevermore.’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/07/13/are-people-and-apes-the-only-ones-that-can-plan-ahead-quoth-the-raven-nevermore/?utm_term=.9a114ac8681c

 July 13 at 2:00 PM
 Play Video 0:12
Watch ravens show off their reasoning abilities
Swedish scientist Mathias Osvath trained five ravens to use a stone as a tool to open a puzzle-like box to prove they have some of the same reasoning abilities as humans and apes. The raven’s reward: a juicy, meaty dog kibble inside the box. (Mathias Osvath)

For centuries, we told ourselves that we are special — that what separates humans from animals is our ability to reason.

But that belief has been increasingly undermined given evidence showing apes also have the intelligence to use tools, solve complex problems and even plan for the future.

Now the latest indignity: Ravens can do it, too.

On a rural research farm in Sweden, working with birds he raised from hatchlings, cognitive zoologist Mathias Osvath recently taught five ravens how to use a tool to open a puzzle-like box containing a treat. He then put his birds through a battery of tests in which they had to choose the tool, despite the temptation of a more immediate goody with the box nowhere in sight.

The birds didn’t bite. Only when the box was brought back did they use the tool they had been saving to secure the better reward — demonstrating self-control, advanced reasoning and planning.

“It’s not just the fact they have these skills independently. But to use them together to make these complex decisions, that’s what makes it so amazing,” said Osvath, in Lund, Sweden.

He compared his subjects’ calculations to the sophisticated decisions that humans make daily.

“Say you’re planning a trip to London, and you know how often it rains there. So you bring an umbrella, even though it’s not raining now where you are. That’s what we are talking about here, planning based on past experience,” Osvath said.

His study — published Thursday in the journal Science — is the latest in a growing body of work from cognitive zoologists that is tearing down assumptions about the limits of animals’ ability to reason.

Some of the more recent work has built on a 2006 study by researchers in Leipzig, Germany, who used puzzle tests such as Osvath’s raven experiment to show that apes could use tools and do planning. But scientists working with birds have long suspected some winged creatures could match the intellect of apes, particularly the wickedly smart ravens, crows and jays — members of the corvid family.

Several studies tried to measure and document those birds’ cognitive skills, mainly by focusing on their obsession with hiding food. Some found that ravens hid their food more quickly if they thought they were being watched. In other tests, scrub jays even moved their hidden food to a second spot once they realized they were being watched, in an apparent effort to ward off potential thieves.

Corvid scientists contended such behavior proved some birds have a cognitive awareness of what others might know or intend, as well as the ability to plan for future consequences. Critics shot down such conclusions, saying the birds’ reaction could be simple, instinctive responses to visual cues.

“It was a big argument, because it was difficult for some to imagine that birds could do these things, too,” said Thomas Bugnyar, a cognitive professor at the University of Vienna who has studied ravens for 20 years but was not involved in Osvath’s research. “People kept looking for holes or possible alternative explanations.”

Stepping squarely into the fray, the Swede set out to design a study to definitively prove the birds’ advanced abilities to reason.

Back in the mid-2000s, he had conducted some of the very studies hailed as proof of planning in apes. One of his most widely publicized (and amusing) reports, in fact, documented how a male chimpanzee at a Swedish zoo would leisurely collect stones and hide them in strategic places during early-morning hours just so that he could later hurl them at gawking visitors.

Osvath now hoped to do the same for ravens.

To conduct his experiment, he raised a group of ravens for five years. He witnessed their intelligence up close — playing games with them, watching as they developed complicated relationships with his graduate students. (One male raven particularly loved pecking his least favorite students on the head.)

Osvath had to modify the tool-based experiments he and others had conducted on apes, given birds’ lack of opposable thumbs. Instead of the sticks or drinking straws used with apes, the ravens got small rocks as tools to open the boxy contraption. For their reward, he provided a juicy, meaty dog kibble that they seemed to love.

In the end, the ravens matched the primates in every respect. On tests in which they had to barter for their reward by trading a specific token, the birds outscored the apes and even outperformed 4-year-old humans.

In an accompanying perspective, two University of Cambridge cognitive scientists called Osvath’s study “compelling evidence.” They wrote, “These results suggest that planning for the future is not uniquely human and evolved independently in distantly related species to address common problems.”

Based on past experiences, Osvath expects some people may be upset by his new study.

“When it comes to what animals can do compared to humans, there are those who cling to cognition as uniquely human,” he said in a phone interview, as his ravens squawked audibly in the background. “I think it has to do with religion, with this argument over whether animals have a soul or free will, and whether we are unique in the world.”

This obsession with human uniqueness, however, misses the entire goal of research into how animals think.

On that central question, he and others working with corvids believe their work poses major new questions given how birds and mammals went their separate ways on the evolutionary road some 300 million years ago. So did corvids and apes arrive at their sophisticated intelligence in totally different ways or based on similar factors and principles?

For evolutionary biologists, that and related questions loom large, with ramifications for everything from how intelligent life formed on Earth to whether extraterrestrial life might look or think like us.

“These are the real questions we should be asking about nature,” Osvath said. “Instead of just focusing on ourselves as humans, we should see ourselves as part of this world. If this study changes even one or two people’s minds about that, I will be happy.”

Read more:

Chimpanzees are animals. But are they ‘persons’?

How do dogs’ genes affect their behavior? Your pet can help scientists find out. 

Another point for elephant intelligence: They know when their bodies are in the way

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How Nutritious Is Human Flesh?

By Charles Choi | April 5, 2017
Ancient cannibalism may not have been as nutritious as previously thought, a new calorie-counting study finds, which means ancient cannibalism may have been more complex than often thought.

Nowadays cannibalism is associated with fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter or by desperate souls as a last resort, such as the Donner Party or the survivors of the Andes flight disaster. But studies suggest cannibalism was practiced since prehistory, and even performed by extinct human lineages. For instance, at Neanderthal sites, researchers discovered unmistakable signs of butchery on human bones and found scraps of human remains in fossilized excrement.

Archaeologist James Cole at the University of Brighton in England investigated cannibalism to learn how extinct human lineages might have behaved or thought. He found prior research that suggested occurrences of Stone Age cannibalism were frequently interpreted as “nutritional” in nature, but they didn’t indicate just how nourishing man-eating actually was. As such, he sought to elucidate the nutritional value of cannibalism.

“Having some time to reflect on it, it was quite a weird thing to think about how calorific I am as a person,” Cole admitted.

Part by Part

Cole calculated calorie values of the fat and protein in each human body part, based on data on four adult human males collected by four different past studies.

“Those studies were interested in the construction of the human body, in what elements we were made up of,” he said.

Based on these past data, Cole estimated that there were roughly 1,300 calories per kilogram of modern human muscle. Although Cole would ideally have included data from women and juveniles, he could not find any published scientific reports on their chemical compositions, and collecting such data himself “was outside the ethical (and legal) scope of this study,” he wrote online Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

Cole noted these calorie estimates might not pertain to extinct human lineages—Neanderthals, for example, were beefier than modern humans. As such, Cole stressed that his estimates should be taken as minimum values. He also cautioned that he only had data from a few people, and “given the nature of this study, it was not possible to conduct analyses on cooked human flesh.”

Given these caveats, all in all, when compared to animal species whose remains were also unearthed at sites of Stone Age cannibalism, the nutritional value of human flesh is broadly similar to beasts of a similar weight and size, such as an ibex. However, snacking on humans pales in comparison to meals comprised of larger animals. For instance, mammoths are estimated to have supplied about 2,000 calories per kilogram of muscle; woolly rhinos, 1,750; the extinct oxen known as aurochs, 2,040; bears, 4,000; and boars, 4,000.

Cannibalism: It’s Complicated

“I went in with the preconception that we humans would’ve been very nutritionally viable animals, but compared with other animals humans ate, we aren’t terribly nutritious at all,” Cole said. “That makes me think that if, say, six of us are not as nutritious as a single horse or bison, it doesn’t really make sense to cannibalize people simply for their nutritional value.”

This suggests that the motivations for cannibalism in ancient human lineages “may have been as complex as they potentially are for our own,” Cole said. In addition to nutritional value or psychosis, modern humans have historically engaged in cannibalism during warfare, and for rituals such as “eating a recently deceased member of your family to carry them as part of you as you continue your life,” Cole said.

“We can’t limit our understanding of ancient cannibalism to just that one interpretation of nutrition, since it implies a lack of complexity on the part of those groups,” Cole said. “We should embrace complexity.”

Duh…Apes might be able to tell what you’re thinking

Updated 11:02 AM ET, Fri October 7, 2016

One of the things that defines humans most is our ability to read others’ minds — that is, to make inferences about what others are thinking. To build or maintain relationships, we offer gifts and services — not arbitrarily, but with the recipient’s desires in mind. When we communicate, we do our best to take into account what our partners already know and to provide information we know will be new and comprehensible. And sometimes we deceive others by making them believe something that is not true, or we help them by correcting such false beliefs.

All these very human behaviors rely on an ability psychologists call theory of mind: We are able to think about others’ thoughts and emotions. We form ideas about what beliefs and feelings are held in the minds of others — and recognize that they can be different from our own. Theory of mind is at the heart of everything social that makes us human. Without it, we’d have a much harder time interpreting — and probably predicting — others’ behavior.
For a long time, many researchers have believed that a major reason human beings alone exhibit unique forms of communication, cooperation and culture is that we’re the only animals to have a complete theory of mind. But is this ability really unique to humans?
In a new study published in Science, my colleagues and I tried to answer this question using a novel approach. Previous work has generally suggested that people think about others’ perspectives in very different ways than other animals do. Our new findings suggest, however, that great apes may actually be a bit more similar to us than we previously thought.

Apes get some parts of what others are thinking

Decades of research with our closest relatives — chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans — have revealed that great apes do possess many aspects of theory of mind. For one, they can identify the goals and intentions behind others’ actions. They’re also able to recognize which features of the environment others can see or know about.
Where apes have consistently failed, though, is on tasks designed to assess their understanding of others’ false beliefs. They don’t seem to know when someone has an idea about the world that conflicts with reality.
Picture me rummaging through the couch because I falsely believe the TV remote is in there. “Duuuude,” my (human) roommate says, noticing my false belief, “the remote is on the table!” He’s able to imagine the way I’m misconstruing reality, and then set me straight with the correct information.
To investigate false belief understanding in great apes, comparative psychologist Fumihiro Kano and I turned to a technique that hadn’t been used before with apes in this context: eye-tracking. Our international team of researchers enrolled over 40 bonobos, chimpanzees and orangutans at Zoo Leipzig in Germany and Kumamoto Sanctuary in Japan in our novel, noninvasive experiment.
Researchers use juice to attract the apes to the spot where they can watch the videos.<img alt=”Researchers use juice to attract the apes to the spot where they can watch the videos.” class=”media__image” src=”http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/161006150420-great-apes-mind-2-large-169.jpg”>

Watching what they watched

We showed the apes videos of a human actor engaging in social conflicts with a costumed ape-like character (King Kong). Embedded within these interactions was important information about the human actor’s belief. For example, in one scene the human actor was trying to search for a stone that he saw King Kong hide within one of two boxes. However, while the actor was away, King Kong moved the stone to another location and then removed it completely; when the actor returned, he falsely believed the stone was still in its original location.
The big question was: Where would the apes expect the actor to search? Would they anticipate that the actor would search for the stone in the last place where he saw it, even though the apes themselves knew it was no longer there?
While the apes were watching the videos, a special camera faced them, recording their gaze patterns and mapping them onto the video. This eye-tracker let us see exactly where on the videos the apes were looking as they watched the scenarios play out.

Swan killers attack animal rights activist

Photo   Jim Robertson

Photo Jim Robertson

http://www.nltimes.nl/2016/03/21/swan-killers-attack-animal-rights-activist/
“Swan protector Saskia van Rooy was attacked by hunters in Stolwijk on
Saturday, she said to Dutch newspaper AD.
“According to Van Rooy, she was filming dead geese when two men were
suddenly behind her. “Dressed in army suits and camouflage nets over
their heads, they yelled at me”, she said to the newspaper. One swung
the butt of a rifle towards here face, but she managed to duck in
time.”

Remember trying to walk home from school?

https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/8521237-remember-trying-to-walk-home-from-school

by Susie Duncan Sexton

description A Yale professor, who spoke of teaching the -ISMS (racism, ageism, sexism), said that never did he have more dissension or hatefulness issuing from students than when he attempted to teach SPECIESISM.

He believed the collective guilt of having already eaten meat for a lifetime and laughing at animals and never stopping to face the reality of all the abuse other species suffer at the hands of humans is the primary reason humans become so stubbornly heinous. Yet, some of us become compassionate and wish to change. We are the true brave hearts. The others are cowards playing with murderous weapons. Nothing but cowards.

description

And as usual they – those who want to make an ugly point of their God(?)-given “dominion” over, well, everything, it seems – are once again taking their vileness and coarseness and ignorance out on the innocent – even stepping it up. Pretty odd stuff – sociopathic and psychopathic and bizarre. A bully is a bully is a bully.

Those types are as nuts toward humans as they are animals, in spite of any insincere attempts (on their part) at denial of such. Often…usually always…the swaggering grows due to gang-like behavior. Humans trying to impress other humans and to be accepted in some nightmarish club or other. Just unbelievable to observe.

description

But so goes history….ethnic cleansings, world wars, crusades, feeding ____ to lions, gladiator contests, rodeos, bull-fights, turtle tossing, quail shooting, and ………………… and all manner of kinky, mean, smug, creepy, stupid stuff.

Remember trying to walk home from school? And the little cliques that lay in wait? Well, those kids never change. And they seldom seem to pay for their nasty behavior. They manage to raise their little fists and display their Wal-Mart weapons in photo ops because maybe they really always wanted to be movie stars or quarterbacks or cowboys or roller derby dolls or something?

description

And they should have been disciplined by parents (who often maneuvered their way on to school boards) or teachers (who often wish to be popular with the meanest kids so that their work day goes smoother!).

C’mon 99% can relate to the horrors of the public school system then and now. Same old same old. And look where we all are today…putting up with the ugly fireworks I just described and whatever else the entitled want to impose on the rest of us.

______________________

Secrets of an Old Typewriter  Stories from a Smart and Sassy Small Town Girl by Susie Duncan Sexton

More Secrets of an Old Typewriter  Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels by Susie Duncan Sexton

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