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Intelligence animale : vous ne regarderez plus jamais les corbeaux comme avant

L'IA est fascinante, ce qui l'est tout autant pour moi est l'intelligence des animaux au-delà du genre humain. Les chercheurs se rendent de plus en plus compte qu'ils sont bien plus malins que ce qu'on croyait.

Je ne parle pas que des primates. Les oiseaux, et notamment les cervidés, dont les ancêtres se sont séparés des nôtres il y a 300 millions d'années, ont eux aussi développé une forme d'intelligence extraordinaire d'une certaine façon.

Il y a même certaines tâches cognitives pour lesquelles les corbeaux sont meilleurs que nos cousins les chimpanzés!!

Et oui, depuis qu'on en sait plus sur l'intelligence des animaux, on a compris que :

  • la taille de cerveau ne fait pas tout, c'est la densité en neurones qui compte, cf les oiseaux, dont le cerveau est bien plus dense en neurone que le nôtre à volume égal
  • la "céphalisation" ne fait pas tout : les neurones de la pieuvre, qui sait distinguer les humains entre eux, et sait parfois s'enfuire des aquariums, sont répartis dans tout son corps.

Pour enfoncer le clou, voici ci-dessous quelques examples d'accompplissements de l'intelligence aviaire tirés d'un article de National Geographic :

  • Pigeons, scientists discovered, have impressive memories, with an uncanny ability to distinguish human faces and expressions, letters of the alphabet, even paintings by Monet and Picasso.
  • Nutcrackers, for example, harvest and cache more than 30,000 pine seeds every autumn, distributing them in several thousand tiny caches they need to remember through the winter.
  • ""By the time of his death in 2007 at age 31, Alex, a parrot,  had mastered roughly a hundred English sounds for colors, objects, numbers, and shapes. He could clearly pronounce “green,” “yellow,” “wool,” “wood,” “walnut,” and “banana,” and used these sounds to communicate with people. He understood “same” and “different,” could count to eight, and grasped the abstract concept of zero, or “none,” as he called it. Alex used his talent to talk back, telling Pepperberg to “calm down” when she was in a bad mood, and asking to “go back” when he yearned for his home during an illness that kept him at the vet’s. And he always wished her a good night, as he did just before he died. “You be good. See you tomorrow. I love you.”
  • In 2005, birds’ brains were revealed to possess neural structures, called the pallium, that resemble the mammalian neocortex and other areas associated with sophisticated thinking
  • Japanese tits, small East Asian songbirds, use their high-pitched pi-pi alarm calls to alert their fellows to predators, and have a kind of grammar, with syntactical rules for combining the pi notes with dee-dee-dee notes to summon the flock to drive off a predator.
  • Green-rumped parrotlets in South America have calls that function as names. Parent parrotlets apparently assign the names to their chicks, much the way human parents give names to their children.
  • Male palm cockatoos on New Guinea court females with their calls and by fashioning drumsticks from twigs and seedpods and performing rhythmic drum solos on hollow trees—the first animal known to make a musical instrument.
  •  Curiously, Goffin’s cockatoos, white parrots from Indonesia, make and use tools in captivity but aren’t known to do so in the wild. “They really like new things and things they can manipulate, like zippers, locks, and shirt buttons,” said Alice Auersperg
  • Birds —especially corvids and parrots—are now celebrated as “feathered apes,” biologist Emery says. 
  • study that showed scrub jays didn’t instinctively re-hide nuts from other spying jays; they only began to move their stash after they stole nuts from their fellows. “It was the experience of stealing that changed the jays’ behavior,” Emery says. “You know, ‘It takes a thief to know a thief.’ ” Their study suggested that the jays might understand what another bird was thinking (and plotting), a type of reasoning that’s extremely difficult to study and demonstrate in other animals.
  • "Chimpanzees, orangutans, and just one bird, the New Caledonian crow, excel at doing this in the wild.
  • The New Caledonian crow can design what we now call a ‘stepped tool, something designed by someone for a specific purpose. If I’d found it at an archaeological dig, you’d say a human made it. But I found it in the forest, and a crow made it.”
  • "a series of experiments on his university campus that showed crows never forget a face. They recognize people who harassed them years before at nesting sites and even pass this information on to their chicks and other crows.
  • "In the simple experiment, scientists taught ravens how a tool can help them access a piece of food. When offered a selection of objects almost 24 hours later, the ravens selected that specific tool again—and performed the task to get their treat. “Monkeys have not been able to solve tasks like this,” Mathias Osvath, a researcher at Sweden's Lund University, said in a previous interview.

  • "Some species of birds  have exhibited a gift for boogying to a beat. Video of Snowball, a captive sulphur-crested cockatoo, jamming to the Backstreet Boys took the Internet by storm a few years ago. Snowball’s performance is a delight to watch, but it also helped scientists discover that birds can follow a beat. By speeding the song up and down, they determined that Snowball actually does have a sense of tempo and rhythm.
Autres exploits :
  • ""Australian “firehawk” raptors sometimes fly bundles of flaming sticks out of forest fires and into neighboring landscapes, to flush out prey. Maybe that means the raptors are capable of considering a piece of the physical environment, and imagining a new purpose for it." 
  • " Crows are among the most sophisticated avian technologists. They have long been known to shape sticks into hooks, and in 2018, members of one crow species were observed constructing tools out of three separate sticklike parts. "
  • In Japan, one crow population has figured out how to use traffic to crack open walnuts: The crows drop a nut in front of cars at intersections, and then when the light turns red, they swoop in to scoop up the exposed flesh. "
  • In 2008, a magpie—a member of crows’ extended family of corvids, or “feathered apes”—became the first non-mammal to pass the “mirror test.” The magpie’s neck was marked with a bright dot in a place that could be seen only in a mirror. When the magpie caught sight of its reflection, it immediately tried to check its neck. 
  • Crows recognize individual human faces. They are known to blare vicious caws at people they dislike, but for favored humans, they sometimes leave gifts—buttons or shiny bits of glass—where the person will be sure to notice, like votive offerings. 
  • We have high-definition footage of grouper fish teaming up with eels to scare prey out of reefs, the two coordinating their actions with sophisticated head signals. This behavior suggests that fish possess a theory of mind, an ability to speculate about the mental states of other beings.
  • "lab-bound honeybees can learn to recognize abstract concepts, including “similar to,” “different from,” and “zero.”
  • A squirrel can remember the exact location of several thousand acorns for years, a feat that blows human minds away. So in that one type of cognition, squirrels exceed humans

Dernier exploit en date : des corbeaux de Nouvelle-Calédonie ont su planifier à l'avance la résolution d'une énigme en 3 étapes afin d'obtenir une récompense "crows kept in mind the location and identities of out-of-sight tools and apparatuses while planning and performing a 3-stage sequence of tool behaviours. This provides the first conclusive evidence that birds can plan several moves ahead while using tools." La vidéo plus bas :

Instant spéculation pour finir : avec les progrès en biologie, il n'est pas exclu qu'on puisse bientôt connecter des cerveaux de corbeaux entre eux pour constituer une intelligence supérieure à celle d'un seul corbeau (capable de résoudre des problèmes plus complexes encore), et à terme cela pourrait être une piste pour arriver à la fanstamée "superintelligence". En effet, il sera moins tabou et moins cher d'exprimenter en labo avec de la cervelle de corbeaux qu'avec des cerveaux de chimpanzés ou des cultures "d'organoïdes cérébraux" humains !