Canny corvids curb cooperation with cheaters

Why Evolution Is True

Excuse the alliteration, as I’m tired this morning. But not too tired to report on a new paper in Nature Scientific Reports by Jorg Massen, Caroline Ritter, and Thomas Bugnyar (free access and pdf, reference below, popular summary at IFL Science). It shows something heretofore unrecognized as a behavior in birds: a recognition of cheaters and a refusal thereafter to cooperate with them.

The paper begins with a useful literature survey of animals that cooperate with others (killer whales, Harris’s hawks, chimpanzees), animals that wait for another individual to arrive to help them perform a cooperative task (capuchins, bonobos, Asian elephants), and animals known to discriminate with respect to partners, choosing to work with those that have been more helpful (chimpanzees and coral trout (!).

But that kind of partner discrimination hadn’t been described in birds. Now it is, thanks to a clever experiment in which ravens (Corvus corax

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