Ravens remember relationships they had with others

Apr 19, 2012
Ravens remember relationships they had with others
Ravens have long-term memory. Credit: Markus Boeckle

In daily life we remember faces and voices of several known individuals. Similarly, mammals have been shown to remember calls and faces of known individuals after a number of years. Markus Boeckle and Thomas Bugnyar from the Department of Cognitive Biology of the University of Vienna show in their recent article, published in Current Biology, that ravens differentiate individuals based on familiarity. Additionally, they discovered that ravens memorize relationship valence and affiliation.

So far it was unknown whether relationship valence can be remembered based on former positive or negative interactions. As response to calls of formerly known individuals ravens not only increase the number of calls but also change call characteristics dependent on whether they hear former "friends" or "foes". This suggests that ravens remember specific individuals at least for three years.

The ability to change call characteristics is especially interesting: In case they hear a "friendly" individual they respond with a "friendly" call, whereas when listening to a "foe", they exhibit lower frequencies and rougher characteristics, an effect already described for other .

Ravens respond to calls from previously unknown individuals with even lower and rougher calls and thus try to increase the acoustic perceivable body-size – also in humans larger people have lower than smaller ones and angry humans rougher voices. While it was known that mammals change their voices based on the relationship they share with others, the researchers were now able to show for the first time that also birds change their calls according to relationship quality.

The duration of the memory is beyond the previously estimated ability for birds; the ability to remember relationship valence has been shown for the first time in animals.

Explore further: World's first microbe 'zoo' opens in Amsterdam

More information: Current Biology (2012). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.03.023

Related Stories

Ravens console each other after fights

May 18, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study investigating the behavior of ravens has found strong evidence that after conflicts bystanders appear to console and relieve the distress of victims with whom they have a relationship, ...

Deep male voice helps women remember

Sep 12, 2011

Men take note: If you want women to remember, speak to them in a low pitch voice. Then, depending on what they remember about you, they may or may not rate you as a potential mate. That's according to a new study by David ...

Bats recognize the individual voices of other bats

Jun 05, 2009

Bats can use the characteristics of other bats' voices to recognize each other, according to a study by researchers from the University of Tuebingen, Germany and the University of Applied Sciences in Konstanz, Germany. The ...

Assessing safety through vocal cues

Apr 13, 2007

For the first time foraging birds have been shown to use vocal cues, rather than vision, to gain information on both the size of the group they are in and their spatial position within that group.

'Look at that!' -- ravens use gestures, too

Nov 29, 2011

Pointing and holding up objects in order to attract attention has so far only been observed in humans and our closest living relatives, the great apes. Simone Pika from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and Thomas ...

Recommended for you

World's first microbe 'zoo' opens in Amsterdam

11 hours ago

The world's first "interactive microbe zoo" opened in Amsterdam on Tuesday, shining new light on the tiny creatures that make up two-thirds of all living matter and are vital for our planet's future.

Study shows how chimpanzees share skills

12 hours ago

Evidence of new behaviour being adopted and transmitted socially from one individual to another within a wild chimpanzee community is publishing on September 30 in the open access journal PLOS Biology. This i ...

Little blue penguin back at sea after hospital stint

17 hours ago

Wildbase Recovery Community Trust ambassador and Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie joined Massey University veterinary staff to release a little blue penguin back into the sea at Himatangi Beach this morning.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

CardacianNeverid
5 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2012
Ravens are remarkably intelligent creatures that excel at problem solving and many other things one would ordinarily ascribe to higher apes.
Peteri
not rated yet Apr 20, 2012
Which just goes to show that (brain) size isn't everything! ;-)