Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wait, I know you!

In my morning stroll of the NY times, I came across this article about the amazing ability for crows to recognize human faces. Although some might not see this as a big whoop, I for one, find it fascinating! In a study at the University of Washington, certain masks were worn while remaining threatening or neutral to the the crows. A caveman mask was the threatening variable, and ironically, a Dick Cheney mask was used as the neutral one. After capturing some crows and showing them the masks, the researchers walked through campus on pre-determined routes.

However, "[t]he crows had not forgotten. They scolded people in the dangerous mask significantly more than they did before they were trapped, even when the mask was disguised with a hat or worn upside down. The neutral mask provoked little reaction. The effect has not only persisted, but also multiplied over the past two years. Wearing the dangerous mask on one recent walk through campus, Dr. Marzluff said, he was scolded by 47 of the 53 crows he encountered, many more than had experienced or witnessed the initial trapping. The researchers hypothesize that crows learn to recognize threatening humans from both parents and others in their flock."

I wonder what other animals possess this ability? I'm sure dogs are able to distinguish their owners from strangers somehow. Although, that might be due to an incredible sense of smell. I've heard from a farmer that in deer hunting season, deer will recognize a change in clothing and become skiddish. During the rest of the non-hunting season, deer will see the farmer in his cowboy hat riding around the farm. They know to high tail it outta there when he has changed into is deer hunting head gear.

So remember, the next time you're trying to shoo away those crows, don't use the Dick Cheney mask.

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