Ravens -- which use tools, play games and solve puzzles -- have even more in common with humans than previously thought. Like wallflowers at a middle school dance, these birds understand the social hierarchy of other groups simply through observation.
In a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications, biologists from the University of Vienna discovered that ravens can recognize the social structure of other flocks. And when lesser-ranked ravens start to show off to more dominant birds, ravens from unrelated groups show signs of stress -- a response never before seen in a species besides humans.
Jorg Massen, an expert in cognitive biology and an author of the study, uses the example of The Sopranos to highlight how ravens, like us, understand social hierarchies we're not a part of. When mafia don Tony Soprano ends up the butt of his cousin Tony Blundetto's jokes, Massen says:
[A]s spectators of the show, we immediately recognized that this was inappropriate with regard to the dominance order within the Soprano family. As we are not part of the Soprano family, we make this inference not by comparing our own rank relation with the two Tony's with each other, but instead we have a mental representation of the rank relation of the two that gets violated in the turn of these events.