Friday, October 05, 2007

Counting Crows

In the Pacific Ocean, east of Australia, the French islands of New Caledonia is inhabited by a unique species of crow, the New Caledonian crow. They are unique because they have a variety of foraging methods. These methods include the use of stalks of grass, or stems of leaves as tools to aid in capturing young beetle larvae. These crows are very hard to observe, as they live in mountainous forests and are very sensitive to human disturbances. Up until now, researchers have finally found a way to track this behavior using ultralight cameras.

A team led by Christian Rutz, of the University of Oxford of England, mounted these tiny cameras on the tail feathers of the New Caledonian crows. This allowed for the filming of a frontal view of the birds, allowing researchers to see what was in front of them. These cameras weighed half an ounce. Not only were they heavy, but had short battery life (about 1 hour). However, footage from the video gives evidence that New Caledonian crows use tools to uncover insects from matter covering the ground as well as to 'fish' for larvae in dead wood.

Using these cameras, New Caledonian crows have been spotted using pine needles, stems, and grass. Researchers have seen a variety as they have seen narrow, wide, and multi-stranded tools. Clearly, these tools are evidence of advances in technological innovation by the crows. There is much detail in each of these tools, between the snips and tears of each specific form of tool and composition. Researchers have also seen a geographical distribution of each tool, which leads to a theory that there was an origin to each tool. These crows are very interesting, as the crows pass down their methods through generations and generations, adapting their methods and strategies, 'evolving' them. This study shows that crows are closer to human beings than previously anticipated. With the advancement of technology, researchers will be able to further their studies in animal behavior.


Posted by
Harvmit Huang (2)


At 11:27 AM, Blogger PWH said...

Great job! You gave a lot of good background info to make the post really easy to understand. It might be interesting to include how they were able to catch the crows in order to attach the cameras since they are hard to track down.

Christina Breed (2)

At 7:56 PM, Blogger PWH said...

You covered basically everything from the article. Goob job explaining the experiment

John Garabedian (2)

At 1:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good explanation of the experiment. I'd like to know how they captured the crows. Interesting to think of nonprimates using applied generation to generation teaching to use tools to forage successfully.

Posted by NJB


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