Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Look at that!' Ravens gesture with their beaks to point out objects to each other

Date:
November 29, 2011
Source:
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Summary:
Pointing and holding up objects in order to attract attention has so far only been observed in humans and our closest living relatives, the great apes. Researchers now provide the first evidence that ravens (Corvus corax) also use so called deictic gestures in order to test the interest of a potential partner or to strengthen an already existing bond.

Ravens (Corvus corax) have been observed to use their beaks similar to hands to show and offer objects such as moss, stones and twigs to fellow ravens.
Credit: © Xaver Klauίner / Fotolia

Pointing and holding up objects in order to attract attention has so far only been observed in humans and our closest living relatives, the great apes. Simone Pika from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and Thomas Bugnyar from the University of Vienna, however, now provide the first evidence that ravens (Corvus corax) also use so called deictic gestures in order to test the interest of a potential partner or to strengthen an already existing bond.

Related Articles


From early childhood on, children frequently use distinct gestures to draw the attention of adults to external objects. So-called deictic gestures such as "pointing" ("look here") and "holding up of objects" ("take this") are used by children for the first time at the age of nine to twelve months, before they produce their first spoken words. Scientists believe that such gestures are based on relatively complex intelligence abilities and represent the starting point for the use of symbols and therefore also human language. Deictic gestures are thus milestones in the development of human speech.

Surprisingly, observations of comparable gestures in our closest living relatives, the great apes, are relatively rare. Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in the Kibale National Park in Uganda, for example, use so-called directed scratches, to indicate distinct spots on their bodies to be groomed. Deictic gestures thus represent an extremely rare form of communication evolutionarily and have been suggested as confined to primates only.

According to the two researchers from Seewiesen and Vienna, however, such behaviour is not restricted to humans and great apes. For two years, Simone Pika und Thomas Bugnyar investigated the non-vocal behaviour of individually marked members of a wild raven community in the Cumberland Wildpark in Grόnau, Austria. They observed that ravens use their beaks similar to hands to show and offer objects such as moss, stones and twigs. These distinct gestures were predominantly aimed at partners of the opposite sex and resulted in frequent orientation of recipients to the object and the signallers. Subsequently, the ravens interacted with each other, for example, by example billing or joint manipulation of the object.

Ravens are songbirds belonging to the corvid family like crows and magpies, and they surpass most of the other avian species in terms of intelligence. Their scores on various intelligence tests are similarly high than those of great apes. Ravens in particular can be characterized by complex intra-pair communication, relatively long-time periods to form bonds and a relatively high degree of cooperation between partners.

This new study shows that differentiated gestures have especially evolved in species with a high degree of collaborative abilities. "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" says Simone Pika from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Simone Pika, Thomas Bugnyar. The use of referential gestures in ravens (Corvus corax) in the wild. Nature Communications, 2011; 2: 560 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1567

Cite This Page:

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "'Look at that!' Ravens gesture with their beaks to point out objects to each other." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111129112319.htm>.
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2011, November 29). 'Look at that!' Ravens gesture with their beaks to point out objects to each other. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111129112319.htm
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "'Look at that!' Ravens gesture with their beaks to point out objects to each other." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111129112319.htm (accessed December 29, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nevada Farmer Uses Goats to 'recycle' Christmas Trees

Nevada Farmer Uses Goats to 'recycle' Christmas Trees

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 27, 2014) — A Nevada goat farmer partners up with a local fire department to 'recycle' discarded Christmas trees. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breeding Christmas Trees Without Needle Mess

Breeding Christmas Trees Without Needle Mess

AP (Dec. 26, 2014) — The presents are unwrapped. Now it's time for another Yuletide tradition: cleaning up the needles that are falling off your Christmas tree. Scientist hope to make that process a ghost of Christmas past. (Dec. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Venemous White Cobra Gets New Home

Venemous White Cobra Gets New Home

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 24, 2014) — A venemous white cobra gets a new home at the San Diego Zoo, following a dramatic capture and months of quarantine. Sharon Reich reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Christmas Trees And Bugs Are Seemingly Symbiotic

Christmas Trees And Bugs Are Seemingly Symbiotic

Newsy (Dec. 24, 2014) — The National Christmas Tree Association says bugs in trees are a relatively small problem, but recommends giving your tree a good shake anyway. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins