Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Do crows plan ahead just like humans playing chess?

A new study shows crows have the ability to plan three behaviours ahead towards achieving a goal in a way that may be similar to the way humans plan future moves in chess.

The team of researchers from the University of Auckland, the University of Cambridge and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, were able to produce the first conclusive evidence that birds have the ability to plan while using tools by working with New Caledonian crows. This species is famed for its tool-making and problem solving abilities.

They set up problems to determine if the crows were solving the task on a moment-to-moment basis or were truly planning out a sequence of behaviours before they took on the task.

For example, in one problem crows had to use a short stick to push a stone from a tube, and then drop this stone onto a platform to release a piece of meat. They had to do this while ignoring a long stick in a tube, as the long stick did not work in the platform. To make the problem even harder, and ensure the crows were truly planning, only one stage of the problem could be viewed at a time. This meant the crows had to remember where the stone, long stick and meat were and use this information to plan out the correct sequence for a solution.

Watch video of the crows solving the task here:

“Because each part of the problem was out of sight of the others, our study clearly shows the birds were capable of preplanning. They were imagining the required steps in advance rather than simply acting on a moment-to-moment basis,” says University of Auckland PhD candidate Romana Gruber.

Dr Alex Taylor, also from the University of Auckland, says the study contributes significantly to our knowledge of how widespread planning with tools is across the animal kingdom.

“The ability of humans to plan ahead while using tools is a key reason why we currently have the civilisation we live in today. To see a bird species also possesses this combination of abilities is remarkable.”

The study is published in Current Biology and available at


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Industry Report: Growing Interactive Sector Wants Screen Grants

Introducing a coordinated plan that invests in emerging talent and allows interactive media to access existing screen industry programmes would create hundreds of hi-tech and creative industry jobs. More>>


Ground Rules: Government Moves To Protect Best Growing Land

“Continuing to grow food in the volumes and quality we have come to expect depends on the availability of land and the quality of the soil. Once productive land is built on, we can’t use it for food production, which is why we need to act now.” More>>


Royal Society: Calls For Overhaul Of Gene-Technology Regulations

An expert panel considering the implications of new technologies that allow much more controlled and precise ‘editing’ of genes, has concluded it’s time for an overhaul of the regulations and that there’s an urgent need for wide discussion and debate about gene editing... More>>


Retail: Card Spending Dips In July

Seasonally-adjusted electronic card spending dipped in July by 0.1 percent after being flat in June, according to Stats NZ. Economists had expected a 0.5 percent lift, according to the median in a Bloomberg poll. More>>


Product Stewardship: Govt Takes More Action To Reduce Waste

The Government is proposing a new way to deal with environmentally harmful products before they become waste, including plastic packing and bottles, as part of a wider plan to reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in landfills. More>>


Earnings Update: Fonterra Sees Up To $675m Loss On Writedowns

“While the Co-op’s FY19 underlying earnings range is within the current guidance of 10-15 cents per share, when you take into consideration these likely write-downs, we expect to make a reported loss of $590-675 million this year, which is a 37 to 42 cent loss per share." More>>