Crows respect their dead

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Carl Zimmer writes in the NY Times today about an experiment with crows. John Marzluff and colleagues from the University of Washington have been examining a myth about crows, that they recognize and mourn their dead. The myth turns out to be true: “Crows May Learn Lessons From Death”.

That’s not to say every animal pays attention to its dead, however. In fact, the club is fairly exclusive, including species such as chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins and relatives of crows known as scrub jays.
“It’s pretty consistently animals that live in social groups and are known for having more advanced cognitive skills,” Ms. Swift said. “It’s amazing to think a crow — a bird — is doing something like this that so few other animals are doing that we know.”

It’s an interesting story of behavioral science, making use of undergraduates-in-masks to assess the behavioral response of the crows to the same human figures in association with dead crows and other birds.