How crows took over the world

Crows are found almost everywhere on the planet. In very different environments. And this omnipresence, researchers teach us today that they owe it not only to the simple fact that they can fly far. Cats may not be the only ones hatching plans to take over the world.

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[EN VIDÉO] Crows as smart as great apes
They have much smaller brains and yet crows turn out to be as intelligent as great apes. Numerous studies confirm this. These amazing birds show adaptability, personality. Something to question the very processes of the evolution of cognitive abilities. How can brains as different as a crow’s and a great ape’s be brought together at some point? This is the question posed by researchers at the University of Lund (Sweden) (in English) © University of Lund

He knows how to imitate voices. He has memory. He knows how to use tools. He knows how to solve rather complex problems. He even has some self-control. The crow, it is now established, is a particularly intelligent animal. What is perhaps a little less known is that the Raven is one of the most widespread groups of birds in the world.

Recall that the term crow is actually used to designate different species of the genus Corvus, a genus of the crow family — to which jays and magpies also belong. And while the other members of this family have remained rather concentrated in certain regions of the Planet, the crows have experienced a rapid expansion throughout the world.

What allowed them to conquer the globe in this way was first and foremost their astonishing ability to fly. It opened the way for them to new lands. “But it is also important to ask what allowed the crows to survive once they arrived in these new environments”says Carlos Botero, professor of biology, in a press release from Washington University in St. Louis (United States). The works that he led with his team show that the crows really owe their success in fact to their extraordinary ability to adapt to different habitats.

A question of physics and intelligence

Researchers have studied crows in Europe and the United States. They observed that they exhibit longer wings, larger bodies, and relatively larger brains than other corvids. Enough to imagine that the secret of the conquest of the world by crows is hidden behind the combination of these three characteristics. Longer wings to fly further. Bigger bodies to take advantage physical on their smaller cousins. And perhaps especially larger brains to boost the flexibility of their behavior and allow them to ” hang on “ waiting for evolution to do the rest.

Because crows also happen to exhibit the rate of evolution and speciation of the highest traits of the corvidae family. A necessity for birds which, to move from a tropical rainforest to the cold of the Arctic, had to adopt quite different survival strategies and physical traits. A process of adjusting phenotypes known as“selection optimization”.

Crows have evolved new beak shapes, for example. Forms that do not exist in any other corvid. And they knew how to adapt their size to their environment. “Thanks to these amazing birds, we now understand a little better the processes by which animals can quickly conquer the world and how this geographic expansion translates into the production of new species with news morphologies »concludes Joan Garcia-Porta, lead author of the study.

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