Sociological Imagination: is Corvid Intelligence and Tool of Convergent Evolution with Primates?

Check out more papers on Evolution Imagination Intelligence

Stern, David L. “The Genetic Causes of Convergent Evolution.” Nature Reviews Genetics, vol. 14, no. 11, Nov. 2013, pp. 751–64.

David L. Stern explains the concept of convergent evolution and how there are two genetic causes called parallel and collateral. Parallel convergent evolution is the better explanation for the relationship of primate and corvid cognition. Parallel evolution is the development of specific traits that develop in very different/distantly related species. This seems to be the case of what has happened with primates and corvids. This would be great for background information and introduction.

Emery, Nathan J., and Nicola S. Clayton. “The Mentality of Crows: Convergent Evolution of Intelligence in Corvids and Apes.” Science, vol. 306, no. 5703, 2004, pp. 1903–1907. JSTOR,

Nathan J. Emery and Nicola S. Clayton from the Sub-Department of Animal Behavior, University of Cambridge, review recent studies on corvid and ape intelligence in order to prove their theory that corvids and apes share a cognitive tool kit. This cognitive tool kit consists of causal reasoning, flexibility, imagination, and prospection. From their studies, Emery and Clayton believe that cognitive abilities in apes and corvids evolved through divergent brain evolution due to their vastly different structures. However, they believe there is evidence of convergent mental evolution. This is pertinent to my research because it proves that at one point in time, the mental abilities of both species could have arisen from a same factor.

Roth, Gerhard. “Convergent Evolution of Complex Brains and High Intelligence.” Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, vol. 370, no. 1684, 2015, pp. 1–9.,

Gerhard Roth of the Brain Research Institute, University of Bremen, writes in this article about the convergent evolution of high intelligence. He compares the high intelligence and brain complexity of several different species, two of them being corvids and primates. He further supports the theory that corvid intelligence is just as high as primate intelligence in certain scenarios. This is relevant to my topic because the author’s explanation shows that these brains developed independently but are comparable due to similar ecological niches and stressors that caused these species’ intelligence to develop.

Kabadayi, Can, and Mathias Osvath. “Ravens Parallel Great Apes in Flexible Planning for Tool-Use and Bartering.” Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 14 July 2017,

Can Kabadayi and Mathias Osvat of the Department of Cognitive Science, Lund University, conducted several experiments to compare the bartering and planning skills of corvids and primates. They found that ravens outperform chimpanzees, orangutans, and bonobos when it comes to bartering. In addition, they have many similarities in planning and bartering in comparison to great apes. These results argue that corvids’ performances in these tasks exemplify parallel cognitive similarities that could be resulted from similar evolutionary processes to primates.

Balakhonov, Dmitry, and Jonas Rose. “Crows Rival Monkeys in Cognitive Capacity.” Scientific reports vol. 7,1 8809. 18 Aug. 2017.

Dmitry Balakhonov, Dept. of Psychology, Ruhr-University Bochum, and Jonas Rose conducted a study by testing two naïve crows on a change localization paradigm. The crows were trained for 10 months and tested for 10 days where scientists would show an array of colors to the corvids. There would then be a delay and one color replaced; the corvids would have to pick which color was changed. The study showed that the corvids had the same mental capacity of healthy primates. This is pertinent to my research because it shows that corvids’ mental capacity evolved similarly to primates and suggest that convergent evolution is the answer for these evolved mental similarities.

Nieder, Andreas. “Evolution of Cognitive and Neural Solutions Enabling Numerosity Judgements: Lessons from Primates and Corvids.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 1 Jan. 2018,

In this article, Andreas Nieder compares the numerical competence between corvids and primates. Despite not having a common ancestor for over 320 million years, both corvids and primates have similar ways of thinking and processing numbers. Scientists believe that this processing comes from the end brain in both species, however, these end brains have evolved independently. Despite evolving independently, primates and corvids similarity in processing numerical values are very similar, this could be a result of similar sociological pressures and adaptations. This would be used in my paper as another example of how corvid and primate thinking are similar because of convergent evolution.

Olkowicz, Seweryn, et al. “Birds Have Primate-like Numbers of Neurons in the Forebrain.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 113, no. 26, 2016, pp. 7255–7260. JSTOR,

Seweryn Olkowicz, Martin Kocourek, Radek K. Lu?an, Michal Porteš, W. Tecumseh Fitch, Suzana Herculano-Houzel and Pavel N?mec use the isotropic fractionator to see the amount of neurons in certain brain regions. They believe that the number of neurons in certain avian species could be responsible for their high intelligence. The study found that corvids and parrots have forebrain neurons equal to primates. This study suggests that the brain evolutionary patterns of these species are similar, however, come from different ancestors. This is supportive of the concept of convergent evolution, they have similar brain powers and capacity, despite their size and were developed independently.

Dufour, Valerie, et al. “Corvids Can Decide If a Future Exchange Is Worth Waiting For.” Biology Letters, Royal Society, 14 Sept. 2011,

Valerie Dufour, Claudia A. F. Wascher, Anna Braun, Rachael Miller and Thomas Bugnyar created a test study to debunk the theory that corvids do not have patience for delays. These researchers created an exchange task to study two bird species, the carrion crow (Corvus corone) and the common raven (Corvus corax) to prove that corvids’ delayed gratification can be comparable to certain primates. The study proved to be true, that corvids will wait for the better food for a certain period of time. This is relevant to my research because it shows that these behaviors could be related through having to adapt to similar environments and behaviors. This study also emphasizes the need for more research into corvid intelligence similarities which will be a part of my conclusion.

Reader, Simon M., et al. “The Evolution of Primate General and Cultural Intelligence.” Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, vol. 366, no. 1567, 2011, pp. 1017–1027. JSTOR,

Simon M. Reader, Yfke Hager and Kevin N. Laland reviewed over 75 years’ worth of studies to examine similarities of tool use, innovation, and social learning between different primate species. These similarities are believed to be what sets them apart from other species, however, these skills can also be seen in corvids. Although corvids are not mentioned in this article, it is important to emphasize that these scientists believe primate intelligence exists due to convergent evolution across different primates. These scientists believe primate intelligence was based off societal pressures and their environment; the same argument can be made for corvids. This could also contribute to the argument for the need of studying corvid intelligence due to their similar abilities.

Emery, Nathan J. “Cognitive Ornithology: The Evolution of Avian Intelligence.” Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, vol. 361, no. 1465, 2006, pp. 23–43. JSTOR,

Nathan J. Emery from the Sub-Department of Animal Behavior at the University of Cambridge reviews several studies from his past research on avian intelligence. He concludes that avian intelligence should be studied just as heavily as primate intelligence in order to understand the evolution of intelligence. Since corvids have similar intelligence to primates and very different brain structures, it disproves the theory that intelligence is based off the brain structures of primates. It supports my thesis that intelligence and cognition have survived through convergent evolution rather than ancestral evolution in one specific species. I think this would be a great point that summarizes and concludes the paper. 

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Sociological imagination: Is Corvid Intelligence and Tool of Convergent Evolution with Primates?. (2022, Oct 03). Retrieved July 12, 2024 , from

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