Like metaphorically walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, looking into the eyes is ‘seeing’ with someone else’s eyes: We follow someone else’s eyes to find out what attracted them, or we can try and find out what the other person sees. view is blocked.
New research by biologists from Lund University in Sweden challenges the idea that mammals were the first to develop cognitive abilities.
The researchers’ observations of alligators and birds suggest that visual observation, which humans have been studying for two years, may have evolved from dinosaurs 60 million years ago.
Only a few species, especially monkeys, apes, wolves and dogs, and some species of birds, have shown their appearance. And not much is known about how it came to be.
Since mammals and birds are separated by evolution by 325 million years, but they evolved the same cognitive abilities independently, and the appearance is seen in a few species, researchers predicted that they could evolve several times.
In what they believe is the first study of its kind, the team compared paleognaths – birds with brains like their dinosaur predecessors, with crocodiles – the closest living relatives of birds. Birds and crocodiles are the archosaurs, a group that includes pterosaurs and non-avian dinosaurs.
“Crocodilians are good examples for studying the evolutionary origins of the cognitive abilities of birds. Their most common feature was probably the common ancestor of dinosaurs and crocodiles,” explains Stephan Reber, a cognitive scientist at Lund University.
“If crocodiles don’t have the skills that birds do, they must have evolved into dinosaurs after the split. This method helps us learn to identify extinct species.”
The 30 ‘study participants’ included two species of large birds: emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) and chronic diseases (Rhea americana), and two species of small birds: the beautiful-crested tinamous (Eudromia elegans) and red junglefowl (A rooster is a rooster). They have been joined by their crocodilian cousins: the American alligators (Mississippi alligator).
Three ‘follow-up’ trials tested the animals’ ability to look up, to the side, and geometrically behind the barrier.
Sometimes these experiments included one of the peer types as a ‘pointer’ whose gaze should be followed, sometimes not, and they were tested with and without a stimulus in the form of a blue rubber ball or a laser drop.
The birds were not displaying their visual cues, although they tracked their visual cues to their target location. However, all the species of birds that have been tested show good vision, which is shown by their ability to pass through the barrier to look at the “eyes of display birds”.
“Birds are often overlooked when it comes to their cognitive abilities,” says first author of the study and zoologist at Lund University Claudia Zeiträg.
“Our findings show that they do not have the ability to perceive objects in the same way as monkeys and that their ancestors had this ability long before they were replaced by mammals.”
Considering the similarities between the brains of these birds and their non-bird ancestors, scientists say that this means that the ability to think critically could have been developed even earlier in the dinosaur lineage.
It is unlikely that it existed among the earliest dinosaurs, whose brains were similar to those of alligators.
Researchers have also observed species of birds that do what is called ‘backtracking’, looking into the viewer’s eyes to ‘look again’ when there was no stimulus, indicating that they expect the viewer to be looking at something and are surprised to find nothing there. .
The only animals that have shown this in previous research are humans, monkeys, and apes.
If visual perception was already found in dinosaurs, it could explain how birds see, including their reliance on vision compared to most mammals.
Indeed, with further research, we may learn that the ability to see through another person’s eyes is more common among mammals than we currently know.
But even if that’s the case, it’s still possible that the dinosaurs beat us to the punch when it comes to taking someone else’s point of view.
Research has been published in Advances in Science.