• Like Humans, Ravens Understand There's a Pecking Order

    Study suggests the birds are smart enough to gauge another's status, even in other groups
    FRIDAY, April 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Joining a select group of creatures that includes humans and other primates, ravens have a keen sense of who's who in group hierarchies that are different from their own, new research suggests.
    The birds seem to understand social status and react strongly when it's violated, even in groups of ravens they've never encountered before, the research showed.
    Researchers already knew that ravens have different types of social bonds -- including relatives, friends and partners -- and that they have a social structure where some are dominant over others.
    However, it wasn't known that ravens comprehend the dominance structure between other ravens.
    In this study, researchers at the University of Vienna, Austria, found that individual ravens had strong responses when they witnessed a low-ranking raven showing off to a higher-ranking raven. The reactions included gestures -- such as head turns and body shakes -- indicating that the ravens recognized the violation of the dominance structure among the other birds.
    Importantly, this awareness extends beyond a raven's own group to other groups, according to the study published online April 22 in the journal Nature Communications.
    The findings show that, like humans and other primates, ravens are able to keep track of rank relations among other ravens, the researchers said.
    Lead author Jorg Massen used the popular television series "The Sopranos" to help explain the ravens' newly identified abilities.
    "When Tony Blundetto made fun about Tony Soprano, as spectators of the show, we immediately recognized that this was inappropriate with regard to the dominance order within the Soprano family," he said in a University of Vienna news release. "As we are not part of the Soprano family, we make this inference not by comparing our own rank relation with the two Tonys with each other, but instead we have a mental representation of the rank relation of the two that gets violated in the turn of these events."
    "As the birds in our experiment never had any physical contact with their neighboring group and could only see and hear them, these results suggest that ravens also have mental representations about others," he noted.
    More information
    The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has more about ravens (http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Raven/id ).
    SOURCE: University of Vienna, news release, April 23, 2014
  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    HeartSHAPE® Test Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.