Nov 18 2015
We’ve all seen it happen. Two people fight in public, perhaps with only words and innuendo. When the fight is over, some of the bystanders console the victim.
This kind of consoling is a rare trait among species, especially when those involved have no pair bond. Humans and chimpanzees exhibit “affiliation behavior” but we thought it didn’t happen among birds until a 2010 report in PLOS One showed that ravens do it, too.
The Konrad Lorenz Research Station in Austria studies behavioral ecology and animal cognition, often focusing on the ravens whom they house on site. For the 2010 study, Orlaith N. Fraser and Thomas Bugnyar worked with a group of 13 young hand-raised ravens, some of whom were related.
Ravens live in dynamic social groups so, inevitably, fights break out. For two years the researchers tracked the winners, losers, and bystanders, and the intensity of the fights. The data showed that bystander ravens console the losers with whom they have a relationship — more so if the fight was intense. Sometimes the bystanders step in without being asked, sometimes the victims seek consolation. Interestingly, the fights were more likely to stop when the victim sought consolation from friends.
The study concluded that “ravens may be sensitive to the emotions of others.”
Of course they are.
Click here to read more at PLOS One.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)