Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Political ravens? Ravens notice the relationships among others, study shows

Date:
April 23, 2014
Source:
University of Vienna
Summary:
Cognitive biologists have revealed that ravens do understand and keep track of the rank relations between other ravens. Such an ability has been known only from primates. Like many social mammals, ravens form different types of social relationships -- they may be friends, kin, or partners and they also form strict dominance relations. From a cognitive perspective, understanding one's own relationships to others is a key ability in daily social life ("knowing who is nice or not"). Yet, also understanding the relationships group members have with each other sets the stage for "political" maneuvers ("knowing who might support whom").

Ravens.
Credit: Copyright Jorg J.M.

Cognitive biologists at the University of Vienna have revealed that ravens appear to understand and keep track of the rank relations between other ravens. Such an ability has been known only from primates.

Like many social mammals, ravens form different types of social relationships -- they may be friends, kin, or partners and they also form strict dominance relations. From a cognitive perspective, understanding one's own relationships to others is a key ability in daily social life ("knowing who is nice or not"). Yet, also understanding the relationships group members have with each other sets the stage for "political" maneuvers ("knowing who might support whom").

The results of this study have been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

A team of researchers led by Thomas Bugnyar of the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna, set out to test third-party knowledge in captive groups of ravens. Using a playback design, they let individuals hear a dominance interaction between two other ravens. These interactions were either in accordance with the existing dominance hierarchy in that group or they reflected a possible rank reversal, whereby a low-ranking individual was showing off to a higher-ranking bird. In the latter case, the ravens reacted strongly with information seeking and stress-related behaviors, such as head turns and body shakes, suggesting that their expectations about how the dominance relations among others should look like were violated. Similar to primates, ravens thus keep track of the rank relations of their group members.

Importantly, the researchers found that the ravens not only responded to simulated rank reversals in their own group but also to those in the neighboring group. These findings suggest that ravens can deduce others' rank relations just by watching them. Moreover, it is the first time that animals are shown to be capable of tracking rank relations among individuals that do not belong to their own social group.

Lead-author Jorg Massen underlines the importance of this latter finding by referring to an example from the popular television series "The Sopranos": "When Tony Blundetto made fun about Tony Soprano, as spectators of the show, we immediately recognized that this was inappropriate with regard to the dominance order within the Soprano family. As we are not part of the Soprano family, we make this inference not by comparing our own rank relation with the two Tony's with each other, but instead we have a mental representation of the rank relation of the two that gets violated in the turn of these events," and: "As the birds in our experiment never had any physical contact with their neighboring group and could only see and hear them, these results suggest that ravens also have mental representations about others," says Massen.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Vienna. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jorg J. M. Massen, Andrius Pašukonis, Judith Schmidt, Thomas Bugnyar. Ravens notice dominance reversals among conspecifics within and outside their social group. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4679

Cite This Page:

University of Vienna. "Political ravens? Ravens notice the relationships among others, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423101900.htm>.
University of Vienna. (2014, April 23). Political ravens? Ravens notice the relationships among others, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423101900.htm
University of Vienna. "Political ravens? Ravens notice the relationships among others, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423101900.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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