A comparative study of mirror self-recognition in three corvid species

Lisa-Claire Vanhooland, Anita Szabó, Thomas Bugnyar, Jorg J M Massen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Mirror self-recognition (MSR) assessed by the Mark Test has been the staple test for the study of animal self-awareness. When tested in this paradigm, corvid species return discrepant results, with only the Eurasian magpies and the Indian house crow successfully passing the test so far, whereas multiple other corvid species fail. The lack of replicability of these positive results and the large divergence in applied methodologies calls into question whether the observed differences are in fact phylogenetic or methodological, and, if so, which factors facilitate the expression of MSR in some corvids. In this study, we (1) present new results on the self-recognition abilities of common ravens, (2) replicate results of azure-winged magpies, and (3) compare the mirror responses and performances in the mark test of these two corvid species with a third corvid species: carrion crows, previously tested following the same experimental procedure. Our results show interspecies differences in the approach of and the response to the mirror during the mirror exposure phase of the experiment as well as in the subsequent mark test. However, the performances of these species in the Mark Test do not provide any evidence for their ability of self-recognition. Our results add to the ongoing discussion about the convergent evolution of MSR and we advocate for consistent methodologies and procedures in comparing this ability across species to advance this discussion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229–248
Number of pages20
JournalAnimal Cognition
Volume26
Issue number1
Early online date29 Sept 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Keywords

  • Azure-winged magpies
  • Carrion crow
  • Common raven
  • Mirror response
  • Mirror-mark test
  • Self-awareness

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