Celebrate Magpie Season

14 09 2008

Hattip: grrlscientist

If it’s called magpie season, why can’t we shoot them?

Maybe because they are intelligent*. How do we know this, because they have displayed an intelligent human-like trait – VANITY.

Okay the research (Prior, Schwartz & Güntürkün)  is using the term “self-recognition”.

A common test that is used on human-like primates is to put a brightly coloured dot on the animal and see if it notices the dot on itself in the mirror. The key to self awareness is then that the animal will look for where the dot is on itself, and investigate it specifically, knowing that it shouldn’t be there normally.

Outside of primates, the dot-test has been used to demonstrate self-awareness on dolphins and elephants. Monkeys, while still being intelligent in a number of respects (able to deal with currency, maths and picture based communications), often fail the dot self awareness test. Maybe they don’t care.

This German-based research is one of the first demonstrations of mirror based self-recognition and interest in a non-mammalian animal. The researchers are hoping that it may help dispel some myths about the special-ness of humans and mammals in general.

Oh, yes, science just went there. You are not special anymore.

*It’s Spring here in the Southern hemisphere – that means magpies are breeding – and they will swoop on you if you dare to cross a park a where they are nesting. Hard hats (and icecream tub helmets) for all the kiddies.

Image credit: From the research paper uploaded to flickr by hedwig the owl/grrlscientist

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2 responses

16 09 2008
A Free Man

Magpies are bastards and I don’t care if they’re “intelligent”. They’re still bastards!

17 10 2008
Anon

If they were so smart they’d know i was only crossing through and couldn’t give a rats about their young!

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