In this week’s PLoS ONE news and blog update: clever corvids; experimenting with perceptions of touch—and your sense of self; rapidly evolving rodents; and much more.
In their article published in PLoS ONE on Wednesday, Alex Kacelnik and colleagues at the University of Oxford report that New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) can spontaneously use up to three tools in the correct sequence in order to achieve a goal. Sequential tool use is often interpreted as evidence for advanced cognitive abilities, such as planning and analogical reasoning, but they authors caution that the behaviour can be underpinned by a range of different cognitive mechanisms, which haven’t been explicitly investigate. In the new study, Kacelnik and colleagues present experiments that not only demonstrate new tool-using capabilities in New Caledonian crows, but allow examination of the extent to which crows understand the physical interactions involved. You can watch movie clips of the crows in action via the paper’s supporting information.
Some of the extensive news coverage of the study has included the BBC News, the Times Online, New Scientist, Science News and the Canadian Press, although the crows did have to share the headlines with some tool-using rooks described in a paper published in Current Biology this week. Meanwhile, if you haven’t had your fill of studies testing the cognitive abilities of birds this week, in another paper in PLoS ONE, What You See Is What You Get? Exclusion Performances in Ravens and Keas, Christian Schloegl and colleagues report that corvids and parrots may perform differently in cognitive tasks, which, according to the authors, highlights “the potential impact of different selection pressures on the cognitive evolution of these large-brained birds.”
Jane Aspell and colleagues at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, recently reported that changes in self-consciousness (“where am I located?” and “what is my body?”) are accompanied by changes in where touch sensations are experienced in space. These data reveal that brain mechanisms of multisensory processing are crucial for the “I” of conscious experience and can be scientifically manipulated in order to animate and incarnate virtual humans, robots, and machines. The study has been highlighted by New Scientist.
In their article, published in PLoS ONE last Friday, Oliver Pergams and Joshua Lawler report that certain traits in rodent populations, including head shape and overall size, have been evolving very rapidly over the past century, both on the mainland and on islands, and that in some cases, this might be due to climate change or human population growth. The Los Angeles Times and Science News have both covered this study.
- Time’s article, Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin, discusses a clinical trial published in PLoS ONE earlier this year by Timothy Church and colleagues.
- New Scientist wrote about Ruggero D’Anastasio’s paper, Possible Brucellosis in an Early Hominin Skeleton from Sterkfontein, South Africa, in which the authors report a very early case of infectious disease in a 1.5 to 2.8 million-year-old hominin
- An article by University of Toronto researchers, Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells Self-Renew and Differentiate According to a Deterministic Hierarchy, has been picked up by the National Post, among other online news outlets.
And finally, we have now posted a fairly comprehensive archive of much of the news and blog coverage for many PLoS ONE articles dating back to 2006 on a new page on this blog—why not check out our Media Archive? For more information about media relations at PLoS ONE, including our media contact information and embargo policy, you can also read our Media Page.