Crows

Human uniqueness is not what it used to be

Ever since Galileo argued that the sun was the center of the solar system, the idea of Earth as the universal hub has been the classic example of scientific arrogance. It's certainly a foolproof example of the way humans consider themselves the rule by which everything else should be measured, but when we use it, there's a sense that we don't make that kind of mistake anymore. Yet even today scientists are swayed by the notion that humans stand at the center of the biological universe, especially when it comes to what we care about most: our minds.


More to crow about

There's a lot relevant to language evolution in the latest Current Biology. First up: crows. The First Word reports on Betty the New Caledonian crow who worked out how to build a hook so as to snare some hard-to-reach food. The most remarkable part of Betty's feat was that there was no trial and error, she just sized the problem up and went to work. The ability of New Caledonian crows to use common sense is confirmed by a recent experiment where a number of birds had to work out how to use a short stick to get a long stick that would then reach food. The researchers say that the crow's ability to reason through a problem rivals even that of apes. Current Biology, LiveScience.