Corvid See, Corvid Do.

Crows and Ravens adapt based on their interactions with people.

Crows and Ravens adapt based on their interactions with people.

For example, as explained “In the Company of Crows and Ravens“, a Crows responses take on cultural differences. That is, cultural differences between groups of Crows and Ravens — yeah — not people.

American Crows. Image Credit: Animal Perspectives.

Avoidance by a group of Ravens can mean that they have been persecuted by humans in the past. However, these birds learn from each other and if avoidance is observed within the group, it can be passed on as information by individual members of that group.

The same goes for birds that are largely active around people. Monkey see, Monkey do. Or in this case Corvid see, Corvid do.

It is important for Crows and Ravens to adapt to their surrounding because their survival depends on it. For example, if a Crow sees a human with a gun, it would be in the interest of its own survival for the Crow to avoid avoid that human. Especially since Crow hunting is legal.

This information can be learned from other crows. Likewise, social learning of crows, according to Marzluff and Angell,

“…can help animals adjust to their environment within and between generations, but natural selection must work between generations. Natural selection can craft elegant solutions to environmental challenges when conditions change slowly. Likewise, trial-and-error learning is necessary to meet challenges when conditions change unpredictably and often within an individual’s life. But when conditions change at an intermediate frequency that demands adjustment within some generations and consistent behavior between other generations, then social learning is an efficient way to increase survival and reproduction.”

Natural selection is a term used for changes in a species at the population level (many individuals) over a long period of time (generations). As you can see, these changes take a long time to happen (if they happen at all).

That’s why, as Marzluff and Angell point out, the culture within different groups via social learning help Crows and Ravens quickly adapt, rather than waiting for natural selection to take place.

Without adapting at a cultural level, these species might find themselves on the brink.

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