Questions 20–24 are based on the following passages.
Passage 1 is adapted from Susan Milius, “A Different Kind of Smart.” ©2013 by Science News. Passage 2 is adapted from Bernd Heinrich, Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds. ©2007 by Bernd Heinrich.
In 1894, British psychologist C. Lloyd Morgan published what’s called Morgan’s canon, the principle that suggestions of humanlike mental processes behind an animal’s behavior should be rejected if a simpler explanation will do.
Still, people seem to maintain certain expectations, especially when it comes to birds and mammals. “We somehow want to prove they are as ‘smart’ as people,” zoologist Sara Shettleworth says. We want a bird that masters a vexing problem to be employing human-style insight.
New Caledonian crows face the high end of these expectations, as possibly the second-best toolmakers on the planet.
Their tools are hooked sticks or strips made from spike-edged leaves, and they use them in the wild to winkle grubs out of crevices. Researcher Russell Gray first saw the process on a cold morning in a mountain forest in New Caledonia, an island chain east of Australia. Over the course of days, he and crow researcher Gavin Hunt had gotten wild crows used to finding meat tidbits in holes in a log.Once the birds were checking the log reliably, the researchers placed a spiky tropical pandanus plant beside the log and hid behind a blind.
A crow arrived. It hopped onto the pandanus plant, grabbed the spiked edge of one of the long straplike leaves and began a series of ripping motions. Instead of just tearing away one long strip, the bird ripped and nipped in a sequence to create a slanting stair-step edge on a leaf segment with a narrow point and a wide base. The process took only seconds. Then the bird dipped the narrow end of its leaf strip into a hole in the log, fished up the meat with the leaf-edge spikes, swallowed its prize and flew off.
That was my ‘oh wow’ moment,” Gray says. After the crow had vanished, he picked up the tool the bird had left behind. “I had a go, and I couldn’t do it,” he recalls. Fishing the meat out was tricky. It turned out that Gray was moving the leaf shard too forcefully instead of gently stroking the spines against the treat.
The crow’s deft physical manipulation was what inspired Gray and Auckland colleague Alex Taylor to test other wild crows to see if they employed the seemingly insightful string-pulling solutions that some ravens, kea parrots and other brainiac birds are known to employ. Three of four crows passed that test on the first try.
For one month after they left the nest, I led my four young ravens at least once and sometimes several times a day on thirty-minute walks. During these walks, I wrote down everything in their environment they pecked at. In the first sessions, I tried to be teacher. I touched specific objects—sticks, moss, rocks—and nothing that I touched remained untouched by them. They came to investigate what I had investigated, leading me to assume that young birds are aided in learning to identify food from the parents’ example. They also, however, contacted almost everything else that lay directly in their own paths. They soon became more independent by taking their own routes near mine. Even while walking along on their own, they pulled at leaves, grass stems, flowers, bark, pine needles, seeds, cones, clods of earth, and other objects they encountered. I wrote all this down, converting it to numbers. After they were thoroughly familiar with the background objects in these woods and started to ignore them, I seeded the path we would later walk together with objects they had never before encountered. Some of these were conspicuous food items: raspberries, dead meal worm beetles, and cooked corn kernels. Others were conspicuous and inedible: pebbles, glass chips, red winterberries. Still others were such highly cryptic foods as encased caddisfly larvae and moth cocoons. The results were dramatic.
The four young birds on our daily walks contacted all new objects preferentially. They picked them out at a rate of up to tens of thousands of times greater than background or previously contacted objects. The main initial criterion for pecking or picking anything up was its novelty. In subsequent trials, when the previously novel items were edible, they became preferred and the inedible objects became “background” items, just like the leaves, grass, and pebbles, even if they were highly conspicuous. These experiments showed that ravens’ curiosity ensures exposure to all or almost all items in the environment.
Select an Answer
The crows in Passage 1 and the ravens in Passage 2 shared which trait?
They modified their behavior in response to changes in their environment.
They formed a strong bond with the humans who were observing them.
They manufactured useful tools for finding and accessing food.
They mimicked the actions they saw performed around them.
View Correct Answer
Choice A is the best answer. Both bird species studied modified their behavior in response to changes in their environment. The researchers described in Passage 1 “had gotten wild crows used to finding meat tidbits in holes in a log” (Passage 1, lines 11–12). In other words, the researchers had repeatedly placed meat in the log—that is, changed the crows’ environment—and the birds had responded by modifying their behavior, a point reinforced in Passage 1, line 12, which note that the birds began “checking the log reliably.” The ravens in Passage 2 act in analogous fashion, responding to the introduction of new objects in their environment by “pick[ing] them out at a rate of up to tens of thousands of times greater than background or previously contacted objects” (Passage 2, lines 38–39).
Choice B is not the best answer because while there is some evidence that the ravens described in Passage 2 formed a bond with the author, going on walks with him and possibly viewing him as their “teacher,” there is no evidence that a similar bond formed between the researchers described in Passage 1 and the crows they studied. Indeed, these researchers “hid behind a blind” (Passage 1, line 13) in an effort to avoid contact with their subjects.
Choice C is not the best answer because while crows’ tool manufacture is the central focus of the experiment described in Passage 1, there is no evidence that the ravens in Passage 2 did anything similar. Passage 1 does mention that “some ravens” use “seemingly insightful string-pulling solutions” (Passage 1, line 23), but nothing in Passage 2 suggests that the ravens in that particular study had or displayed tool-making abilities.
Choice D is not the best answer because while there is some evidence that the ravens described in Passage 2 mimicked human behavior, going on walks with the author and possibly viewing him as their “teacher,” there is no evidence that the crows in Passage 1 did any mimicking. Passage 1, in fact, suggests that the ability of the crow to produce the meat-fishing tool was innate rather than a skill it had acquired from either humans or other birds.
Students must synthesize information and ideas from paired texts.