Ancient Fable Comes True

08/26/2009

Black-crow
Black Crow

Do you remember Aesop's fable about the crow dying of thirst that dropped stones into a half-full pitcher to raise the water level so it could get a drink?  The moral of the story, that necessity is the mother of invention, is certainly true--but now it looks like the events of the tale are factually true as well.

Researchers have captured video of a bird called a rook doing exactly what Aesop described.  Rooks are large black birds that are members of the corvid family, which also includes crows, magpies, ravens and jays.  Corvids are known for their intelligence and ingenuity in solving problems.

In the experiment, four rooks were presented with a pitcher of water with a worm floating in it.  The water level was too low for the rooks to reach the worm.  All four rooks separately figured out that they could raise the level of the water, and thus the worm, by dropping stones into the pitcher.  They even knew that dropping larger stones in the water would make the level rise faster than would smaller stones.

The next thing you know, we'll find out that bears eat porridge and tortoises really do win races against hares!

VIDEO: Watch a rook demonstrate its smarts and get the worm.  (Note: the video has no sound.)


David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. His goal is to inspire others to appreciate the wonders of nature. Meet David >
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