Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
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Monday, February 26, 2007

Bird Bias? Get it outta here!!

An interesting article from Nature-dot-com points out that experiments suggest that certain birds are able to "plan" by apparently storing food according to what will be scarce in the future. If the experimental evidence withstands scrutiny, this would prove an interesting finding.

The article provides a peek at the experimental designs and a few other findings including evidence that bird-thieves tend to be more careful in hiding their own food - reminiscent of the buried treasure of human pirates.

The article concludes, however, by pointing to a major flaw in modern science: so-called bird bias (which, I admit, I was unaware of and to which, going forward, I will try to be more attuned :-):
"There's been a bias against birds because they have small brains."

The bias is misplaced, he [Thomas Zentall of the University of Kentucky in Lexington] argues. Many birds lead intellectually demanding lives - finding and processing different types of food, remembering where they hid food and keeping track of their neighbours. And, Clayton points out, scrub-jays actually have relatively large brains: "Their brains are bigger than chimps, relative to their body size."
Well said, sir.

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