Tiny Brains Don’t Stop These Birds From Having a Complex Society

Scientists discovered that vulturine guineafowl live in multilevel societies reminiscent of our own.

Comments: 7

  1. It almost sounds like the multi-level society is created as a compensation for not being very bright, for lacking the capacity to make complicated individual decisions. What does that say about us?

  2. I think anyone who has raised both guineafowl (related to the vulturine guineafowl in the article) and chickens knows that guineafowl are a very different kind of bird indeed. I have seen my small flock of guineas crowd around a fallen comrade in noisy dismay. I have watched as a cock guineafowl led a group of guinea chicks out into daylight from behind an open barn door, where they had become stuck. These were guinea chicks raised by a Bantam hen that the clan had adopted as their own, leaving that Banty hen chickless and distraught. In the same circumstances chickens would begin eating that dead comrade and would kill those hapless chicks.

  3. It's not the first time a multi-layered society has been found in birds. Cooperative species of birds that have been studied now for decades exhibit not only a multi-layered society, but far more complexity in relationships than these birds. How do I know? I've been studying a cooperative species for 33 years now: the bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus). And these little birds are so complex I'm still trying to figure them out. (I also specialize in teaching the evolution of complex social systems.) Nonetheless, it's very interesting that guineafowl are not just a mindless flocking species. And it is unexpected. But they are not the first....not by a long shot.

  4. At the downtown campus of ASU in Phoenix, hundreds of birds return at dusk in groups of about 4-10 to one tree on campus near the student admin center.

  5. The fact that they survived and are here today may be an indication that they have enough brain and usage of it! On the other hand, we have a large physical brain and use very little of it.

  6. Why the assumption that these birds are dumb? Brain size and intelligence aren’t really correlated that closely and given the way our computer technology has advanced I don’t think that should be any sort of surprise.

  7. We have guinea fowl (not vulturine) and they are stupid. No assumptions necessary — just watch them.