July 25, 2013
Hey! You’re Smart, Mr. Bird
A researcher from London and his peers have for the first time mapped an accurate blue print of a bird’s brain in an effort to examine the different regions of the brain and how birds’ process information. What they’ve discovered is that despite over 300 million years of evolution in completely different directions, both humans and birds still have similar, if not the same, cognitive thinking abilities. What this means is that problem solving and long-term memory are about as natural to the modern bird as the average human.
This isn’t particularly surprising when we think about how smart birds are as it is. Birds have possessed superior vision and decision making skills as predators and hunters for a very long time, but what this study does say is that intelligence and decision making isn’t exclusive to just humans. Birds have shown to have great social interaction skills and even possess the intelligence to use some tools alongside their natural habitual skills.
With that in mind, a better view can be taken as to how a brain works. Because both birds and primates possess similar decision-making skills, we can begin to understand the brain has special properties applicable to many different families of animals. The trouble here is that most animals we see and study don’t have nearly as much intelligence as a human, or perhaps we’re looking at it the wrong way.
(Movie Flashback Time)
The concept of evolution takes me back to the first time (or perhaps the third or fourth time) I saw Starship Troopers. The film’s main protagonist, Rico, is taking a course in high school on the evolution of their enemy species, the bugs. Apart from the film’s depiction of large monsters for humans to fight, the audience is always challenged to think about intelligence and what makes humans so susceptible to the Arachnids.
The Arachnids are pretty much everything you’ve come to fear and expect from flying cockroaches, only flying cockroaches can’t rip your intestines clean out with a swipe of their elbow. No, the Arachnids in Starship Troopers are BIG.
As Rico slices open a baby arachnid, his significant other is trying not to unleash her own version of biological splendor on the lab’s worktable. The professor speaks on free will and Darwinism, saying that the Arachnids are a far superior species to humans. Carmen counters the argument by reminding everyone that humans have developed technology, mass weapons of destruction and interstellar space travel.
True, the professor retorts, but the arachnids have superior healing capabilities, an oversized brain stimulus to give them great resistance to limb loss, and their species even possesses the ability to colonize planets by hurling their spores into space. This argument showed that while the Arachnids don’t have social media or prom nights, they’ve still managed to focus on what really matters to their species.
Humans have concentrated on their own evolution all while destroying each other for thousands of years, so what makes birds any more special?
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com