Ravens use sticks to attract attention

Ravens initiate relationships with referential gestures

source: Linda Geddes

New Scientist vol 212 no 2841, December 3 2011 p16

Ravens initiate relationships with referential gestures, a trait also found in humans. Children, for example, may point to show another human where to look. This may be the foundation of language, and involves attributing mental states to another animal. Apes also communicate with humans through referential gestures. Simone Piha from Seewiesen's Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany, with Thomas Bugnyar from Vienna University, Austria, observed seven wild raven pairs offering objects like twigs to one another, using their beaks. This involved non-food items, offered to opposite-sex ravens that were looking at them. Ravens are monogamous and raise offspring together, and couples can develop their own vocalisations. They are highly co-operative, and co-operation may have helped with language evolution. Further research is needed into the significance of this raven behaviour.