Almost all pet owners have noticed that their pet seems to know what time it is. The dog or cat that waits for a family member to arrive home from school or work. Or they let you know exactly the time they normally get fed. They also let you know when it is time for any other daily routine. In the past it was assumed that they saw signals in the behavior of their human house mates. Or the theory was that they recognized the sound of your vehicle and knew that you were near. All of this can be part of the explanation for some events. But then there were those events that did not fit with the theories. Events that had no logical explanation, except that somehow, animals knew what time it was. Over the years, I have seen all of my pets, dogs, cats and birds indicate that they knew when things were supposed to happen. Not only the time of the day, but the day of the week.
Researchers have discovered strong evidence that animals can tell time. A study led by Daniel Dombeck, an associate professor of neurobiology in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences has been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience explains the discovery.
According to Dombeck “As the animals run along the track and get to the invisible door, we see the cells firing that control spatial encoding, then, when the animal stops at the door, we see those cells turned off and a new set of cells turn on. This was a big surprise and a new discovery.”
What I can share with you from personal experience and supports this discovery is this: I am profoundly deaf, and cannot hear an alarm clock, (I can barely hear without hearing aids). If I need to get up at a certain time in the morning, I only have to decide what time I want to get up and I will wake up at the exact minute, no matter how tired I may be. As far as I am concerned, Dombeck’s discovery is the only explanation about how I can do this.
According to Dombeck, “So this could lead to new early-detection tests for Alzheimer’s, we could start asking people to judge how much time has elapsed or ask them to navigate a virtual reality environment — essentially having a human do a ‘door stop’ task.” Again, animal research has the potential of helping people. Because many people suffer from Alzheimer’s, it could help a vast number of people.
Edward Wasserman, Professor of Experimental Psychology in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Iowa has determined that pigeons use a common area of the brain to judge space and time. This suggests that these abstract concepts are not processed separately.
Parrotlet “Sweet Pea”
To determine this, the pigeons were put through the “common magnitude” test. This is where the birds were shown (on a computer) a horizontal line either 6 cm or 24 cm long for either 2 seconds or 8 seconds. When they correctly pecked one of four visual symbols, the length or the duration of the line, they received food.
This compares with a person’s ability to determine space and time without the use of a watch or ruler. Other animals that have been tested have also shown this ability.
One common example that almost all pet owners have witnessed is when their pet knows that they are coming home each day. The dog or cat who waits for their owner to come home from work at the same time each day exhibits what the researchers have tested in pigeons.
There is so much about animals that we are still learning. If only they could talk and tell is what is on their minds!
Richard Hahnloser a researcher from the Institute of Neuroinformatics run by ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich has made an interesting discovery. He found that Zebra finches divide the complex task of learning a new song into manageable parts. When the song was changed, the birds adapted the syllables or notes of the song that they knew to the new song. After a short period of time they were able to master the new song.
The researchers found that the method that the birds used is similar to the method that computer linguists use to compare documents. It is also the same method that children use to learn a primary and secondary language.
The real implication of the study is not only the technique that the birds use, but the intelligence and thought process that they have to use this technique. It requires awareness and the ability to analyze. The more we learn about animals, the more we realize they are much more intelligent than previously thought. How exciting it is to think of what discoveries await us.
Dogs do it, rats do it and chimps do it, why not birds? A new study has determined that the Kea, a New Zealand parrot has a “play laugh” that will get other Kea’s to play with them.
Researchers felt that the play laugh was infectious making other birds play with each other. If a bird heard the play laugh and had no one to play with, they would play by themselves. The researchers plan to study more about this aspect of the Kea’s behavior. What is interesting is that this is the first time a researcher has discovered play laughter in a bird. All other research showed it in mammals.
However, this should not be surprising, anyone who has owned multiple birds has seen them play together or at the same time but this is the first time a call or sound has been connected with the behavior
While the structure of a bird’s brain is different from that of a mammal, some birds appear to be as smart as apes. So far research has shown that some birds have diverse cognitive skills, are capable of thinking logically, recognize themselves in a mirror and can show empathy. Some birds have also used objects as tools.
Many bird owners have made this claim for years, but now research conducted by Onur Güntürkün from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and Prof Dr. Thomas Bugnyar at the University of Vienna have illustrated that birds are much smarter than previous theories.
I experienced this with my Parrotlet when I taught him to pick up paper clips and put them in a box. When he learned that he would get a treat for putting the clip in the box, he would pick up a clip from the box and slam it down into the box, instead of getting one outside of the box, then look at me as if to say, “You didn’t say which clip I had to put in the box.” Birds are such fun!