Being able to plan ahead is crucial to being human. A new study out today in the journal Science today shows that ravens can do it too.
The test above is similar to one ravens in this study completed, and got right the majority of the time.
These results show that ravens can plan ahead for different types of events.
It also shows that they can exercise self control, and that they take time into account when deciding whether to take an immediate reward or wait for a better one. "They are much better [at self control] when they know the reward will come very soon," says Osvath – just like humans are.
"This is a long-wanted study showing that ravens have not mainly specialised in highly sophisticated social but also physical cognitive skills," Dr Simone Pika, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, who didn't work on the study, told BuzzFeed News, adding that she'd like to now see a comprehensive test of the cognitive skills of ravens and others in the crow family to help us work out how they differ from each other, and how those skills might have come about.
Ravens diverged from primates in evolutionary terms 320 million years ago, so this ability must have evolved separately. "Otherwise you would find this in all reptiles, birds, and mammals. It's very unusual,” says Osvath.
"The question is whether they evolved to do this specifically, or whether it's just a thing that happens to work together in a good way but actually evolved for other reasons,” he added. “We don't know that."
Kelly Oakes is science editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
Contact Kelly Oakes at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.