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Living theropods reveal mental fireworks in PET scans

From: Ben Creisler

A number of recent papers and news items are out about the cognitive
abilities of living theropods, otherwise known as  birds.

Virginia Morell (2013)
Into the Minds of Birds.
Science 341 (6141): 22-25
DOI: 10.1126/science.341.6141.22

A new brain scanning method may spur the already-booming field of bird
cognition, and help illuminate a long-term debate over animal
capabilities. PET scans of live birds offer a glimpse of their brains
in the act of working, and may offer clues to when—or if—a bird is

Podcase interview:


Lock-picking cockatoos:

Auersperg AMI, Kacelnik A, von Bayern AMP (2013)
Explorative Learning and Functional Inferences on a Five-Step
Means-Means-End Problem in Goffin’s Cockatoos (Cacatua goffini).
PLoS ONE 8(7): e68979.

To investigate cognitive operations underlying sequential problem
solving, we confronted ten Goffin’s cockatoos with a baited box locked
by five different inter-locking devices. Subjects were either naïve or
had watched a conspecific demonstration, and either faced all devices
at once or incrementally. One naïve subject solved the problem without
demonstration and with all locks present within the first five
sessions (each consisting of one trial of up to 20 minutes), while
five others did so after social demonstrations or incremental
experience. Performance was aided by species-specific traits including
neophilia, a haptic modality and persistence. Most birds showed a
ratchet-like progress, rarely failing to solve a stage once they had
done it once. In most transfer tests subjects reacted flexibly and
sensitively to alterations of the locks’ sequencing and functionality,
as expected from the presence of predictive inferences about
mechanical interactions between the locks.