What Can Dancing Cockatoos Teach Us About Ourselves?

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
A
sulphur-crested
cockatoo
bows
down
at
the
Madrid
Zoo
Aquarium.
The
birds
have
been
seen
dancing
to
music
and
opening
trash
bins
to
get
to
food.

Juan
Naharro
Gimenez
/
Getty
Images

Has
a
gull
ever
snatched
a
French
fry
from
you,
or
made
a
dive
at
your
sandwich?
Would
you
have
been
more,
or
less,
annoyed
if
you
found
out
that
the
bird
knew
exactly
when
you
would
appear,
and
was
in
effect
lying
in
wait?
Scientists
in
Bristol,
England,
recently
discovered
that
Lesser
Black-​backed
Gulls
predictably
showed
up
at
a
school
just
before
snack
time
and
lunch,
waiting
in
large
numbers
on
nearby
rooftops
for
the
opportunity
to
snag
food
from
the
students.
The
birds
also
visited
a
waste
center
at
the
appropriate
time
of
day
for
freshly
dumped
garbage,
capitalizing
on
weekends
when
humans
were
scarce
and
hence
less
likely
to
disturb
them.
Both
of
these
behaviors
are
strikingly
different
from
the
techniques
gulls
typically
use
when
searching
for
fish
or
other
prey,
and
both
only
appear
in
urban
gulls,
illustrating
how
some
creatures,
at
least,
can
thrive
in
human
environments.

The
gulls’
predictive
ability
is
impressive,
but
it
is
just
the
latest
indication
of
birds
behaving
in
a
manner
that
can
only
be
described
as
intelligent.
Move
over
chimpanzees,
dolphins,
and
even
bonobos.
Apes
and
cetaceans
doing
clever
things
is
so
mid-​2000s.
The
new
geniuses
are
birds,
especially
parrots
and
corvids,
members
of
the
crow
family.
An
African
Grey
Parrot
named
Alex
learned
about
150
words,
not
merely
repeating
them
but
seeming
to
know
what
they
meant,
and
could
categorize
objects
by
color
and
size.
When
he
died
at
the
age
of
31,
his
obituary
appeared
in
the

New
York
Times
.
Even
pigeons,
which
don’t
seem
especially
thoughtful,
can
memorize
more
than
700
different
patterns,
and
can
classify
objects
as
either
“human-​made”
or
“natural.”

In
case
that
seems
too
studious,
consider
Snowball,
the
dancing
Sulphur-​crested
Cockatoo.
This
bird
rocketed
to
YouTube
fame
with
his
ability
to
move
along
to
the
beat
of
pop
songs.
Standing
on
the
back
of
an
armchair,
Snowball
produced
14
distinct
dance
moves.
The
authors
of
a
paper
examining
his
behavior
note
that
these
were
spontaneously
generated
by
the
bird,
rather
than
copied
from
his
owner,
“who
does
not
make
a
wide
range
of
movements
when
dancing
with
Snowball
and
tends
only
to
engage
in
head
bobbing
and
hand
waving”
(which
is
an
accurate
description
of
a
lot
of
people’s
dance
moves,
in
my
experience).

Psychologists
think
responding
to
music
with
movement
is
a
sophisticated
form
of
behavior,
and
it
is
intriguing
because
it
does
not
seem
to
be
necessary
for
a
parrot’s
existence.
Rhythmic
movement
in
response
to
sound
has
also
been
noted
in
chimpanzees,
which
sometimes
perform
“rain
dances”
in
the
wild
at
the
start
of
a
storm.

Sulphur-​crested
Cockatoos
have
also
featured
in
recent
headlines
because
of
a
behavior
that
is
less
charming
than
dancing:
raiding
trash
bins.
A
study
published
in
2021
by
researchers
in
Germany
and
Australia
established
that
cockatoos
in
suburban
Sydney,
which
have
long
eaten
the
city’s
discarded
food,
are
not
just
opportunistically
scavenging
but
using
complicated
maneuvers
to
open
the
bins
and
get
at
the
food
inside.
Flipping
over
the
heavy
lids
requires
a
series
of
steps,
from
prying
open
the
lid
to
walking
around
the
edge
of
the
bin.
Only
a
minority
of
the
birds
have
mastered
this
process.
The
technique
varies
among
different
neighborhoods,
and
the
scientists
concluded
that
the
birds
are
learning
how
to
raid
trash
from
others,
with
location-​specific
idiosyncrasies
developing
as
the
cockatoos
​observe
their
companions.

What
does
it
mean
for
birds
to
be
able
to
do
things
that
we
used
to
attribute
only
to
our
closest
relatives,
like
apes,
or
to
animals
like
dolphins
that
we
already
knew
had
outsized
brains
for
their
body
size?
Do
certain
behaviors
make
some
species
smarter
or
more
adaptable
than
others,
allowing
us
to
arrange
animals
in
a
hierarchy
of
intelligence?


Tool
use
has
long
been
a
hallmark
of
advanced
cognitive
ability,
and
it
was
also
long
thought
to
be
restricted
to
humans.
Then
chimpanzees
were
found
to
use
tools,
and
now
we
know
that
some
birds
use
them
too.
Take
New
Caledonian
Crows.
They
look
like
your
average
crow,
with
glossy
black
plumage
and
a
stout
beak.
They
live
in
the
forests
of
New
Caledonia,
a
group
of
islands
in
the
Pacific
Ocean
near
New
Zealand,
and
eat
a
wide
variety
of
foods,
including
seeds
and
insects
hidden
inside
dead
wood
and
at
the
base
of
palm
trees.
In
the
early
1990s,
biologist
Gavin
Hunt
saw
the
crows
using
tools
to
help
them
forage.
In
addition
to
using
twigs
with
hooked
ends,
the
birds
took
leaves
from
Pandanus
trees,
which
look
a
bit
like
palms,
and
modified
them,
biting
off
bits
to
create
a
kind
of
saw.
The
birds
used
both
the
twigs
and
the
leaves
to
fish
prey
out
of
crevices.

Although
tool
use
by
animals
had
been
described
before,
the
New
Caledonian
Crows
take
things
to
a
different
level.
First,
they
make
tools
that
are
highly
consistent,
like
a
craftsman
would.
Second,
the
different
tool
types
are
shaped
in
a
particular
way,
with
only
the
narrow
end
of
leaf
tools
being
inserted
into
crevices.
Third,
the
crows
use
the
hooks
to
grab
onto
their
prey
and
lift
it
out,
rather
than
simply
to
poke
at
it.
Hunt
points
out
that
this
level
of
sophistication
wasn’t
seen
in
humans
until
after
the
lower
Paleolithic
era,
somewhere
between
1.5
million
to
200,00
years
ago,
after
other
aspects
of
material
culture
had
already
developed.
Individual
crows
seem
to
learn
how
to
manufacture
tools
from
each
other,
rather
than
figuring
out
the
process
anew
each
time,
something
that
is
facilitated
by
living
in
groups
of
several
birds.

Since
Hunt’s
observation,
some
of
the
crows
have
been
brought
into
captivity
and
studied
at
universities
all
over
the
world.
Something
of
a
cottage
industry
examining
their
tool
use
and
overall
cognitive
ability
has
emerged.
Researchers
have
used
phrases
like
“behaving
optimistically”
or
using
“mental
representations”
to
describe
the
crows’
achievements.
From
a
behavioral
biology
standpoint,
they
read
like
doting
parents
raving
about
the
abilities
of
precocious
toddlers.

Scientists
house
the
birds
in
aviaries
and
present
them
with
puzzles
that
require
them
to
use
increasingly
complex
tools,
and
to
do
so
in
ways
that
would
never
be
found
in
nature.
For
instance,
one
female
crow
named
Betty
took
a
wire,
bent
it
into
a
hooked
tool,
and
lowered
it
into
a
tube
to
retrieve
a
piece
of
pig
heart
(a
favorite
food),
although
wire
is
obviously
not
a
part
of
the
birds’
environment
and
she
had
never
encountered
wire
before.
(She
is
particularly
amusing
to
watch
in
videos,
as
she
cocks
her
head
and
industriously
bends
a
wire
with
her
beak
while
holding
it
in
her
foot.)
The
birds
can
even
use
one
tool
to
get
another
tool,
which
in
turn
is
employed
to
get
food,
even
when
the
eventual
use
of
the
tool
isn’t
apparent
at
the
time
they
take
it.
The
latter
task
may
require
the
birds
to
mentally
“picture”
the
outcome
of
their
efforts,
an
ability
that
was
thought
by
many
to
be
restricted
to
humans,
and
is
still
considered
to
be
controversial
when
applied
to
the
crows.

Since
New
Caledonian
Crows
use
tools
in
the
wild,
perhaps
it
is
not
surprising
that
they
can
extend
their
skills
to
a
more
artificial
situation.
But
other
species
of
birds
can
use
tools
in
captivity
even
though
they
never
do
so
under
natural
circumstances.
For
example,
ravens,
which
are
members
of
the
crow
family,
were
given
a
choice
of
objects,
only
one
of
which
could
be
used
to
retrieve
food
from
a
box.
The
birds
chose
the
appropriate
tool
even
if
they
had
to
store
the
tool
to
be
used
another
day.
They
could
also
use
tokens
that
could
be
exchanged
for
food
in
a
way
that
researchers
claimed
showed
the
birds’
understanding
of
the
future,
an
ability
previously
thought
to
occur
only
in
humans
and
apes.
Some
scientists
have
questioned
this
conclusion,
as
with
the
tool-​to-​get-​a-​tool
research
on
the
New
Caledonian
Crows,
but
the
birds
clearly
have
a
complex
understanding
of
the
consequences
of
their
actions.


What
do
we
make
of
these
skills?
As
an
evolutionary
biologist,
people
sometimes
ask
me
which
animals
are
most
intelligent,
as
if
we
could
construct
some
kind
of
zoological
IQ
test
with
humans
at
the
top
and
other
species
arrayed
neatly
below.
Everybody
has
their
favorites:
Raccoons!
Octopuses!
Parrots!
Elephants!
And
don’t
get
me
started
on
dog
owners’
conviction
that
their
pets
are
all
candidates
for
Mensa.

But
this
impulse
is
wrongheaded,
not
because
animals
lack
amazing
abilities
but
because
evolution
doesn’t
produce
a
hierarchy
in
which
some
species
are
more
advanced,
or
rank
higher,
than
others.
Animals
aren’t
like
cars,
in
which
the
latest
model
is
an
improvement,
however
slight,
on
the
one
that
came
before
it.
Humans
have
goals,
but
evolution
doesn’t.
Everything
that
is
alive
today
is
just
as
evolved
as
everything
else.
Some
species,
like
crocodiles
or
cockroaches,
may
look
more
like
their
ancient
ancestors
than
others,
but
that
resemblance
or
lack
of
it
simply
shows
that
natural
selection
changes
some
characteristics
more
quickly
than
others.
In
the
case
of
crocodiles
and
cockroaches,
they’ve
evolved
successfully
in
the
only
way
that
counts:
enough
to
reproduce
and
survive.

Back
to
the
smart
birds.
My
feeling
is
that
behaviors
such
as
tool
use—and
dancing—look
impressive
to
us
mainly
because
we
can
do
them
too.
But
all
that
gets
us
is
circular
reasoning:
We
think
we’re
intelligent,
and
hence
animals
that
are
like
us
must
be
intelligent,
which
means—well,
I’m
not
sure
what
it
means,
other
than
that
we’re
good
at
picking
out
human-like
attributes
in
non-humans.
We
could
just
as
well
form
a
club
based
on
the
remarkable
ability
to
fly,
or
to
hibernate,
but
because
humans
wouldn’t
belong
to
either,
perhaps
it’s
not
surprising
we
have
less
interest
in
categorizing
animals
according
to
those
abilities.

Instead,
what
the
extraordinary
capabilities
of
birds—​and
I
do
not
deny
that
they
are
extraordinary—​tell
us
is
that
different
animals
with
a
common
ancestor
millions
of
years
in
the
past
evolved
similar
solutions
to
common
problems.
Evolution
operates
by
favoring,
maybe
infinitesimally,
a
behavioral
variation
that
makes
its
bearer
more
likely
to
reproduce.
That’s
it.
If
that
variation
allows
for
fiddling
with
a
stick,
so
be
it.
I
find
it
more
interesting
to
consider
how
birds’
cognition
and
ours
came
to
resemble
each
other
than
to
seek
a
mirror
in
the
animal
world.


Excerpted
from


Dancing
Cockatoos
and
the
Dead
Man
Test:
How
Behavior
Evolves
and
Why
It
Matters


by
Marlene
Zuk.
Copyright
©
2022
by
Marlene
Zuk.
Used
with
permission
of
the
publisher,
W.
W.
Norton
&
Company,
Inc.
All
rights
reserved.

Artikel ini diambil dari https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-can-dancing-cockatoos-teach-us-about-ourselves-180980460/

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