A new study suggests that dinosaurs were the first creatures able to see themselves in each other’s shoes. This ability, which develops around the age of two in humans, can also occur in other animals, such as dogs and crows.
The research, conducted by researchers at Lund University, Sweden, is published May 19 in the journal Science advances. The study notes that “taking a visual perspective” is a skill that arose at least 60 million years before the appearance of mammals.
This challenges the notion that mammals were creating new and superior forms of intelligence after the dinosaurs became extinct. So far, the gift of seeing oneself in another person’s shoes has only been demonstrated in a few species, mostly monkeys and some monkeys.
To investigate the origin of this social skill, the researchers drew comparisons between crocodiles and more primitive extant birds, known as paleognaths – among them ostriches and rhinos. These birds appeared 110 million years ago, predating the two groups of sighted mammals (primates and dogs) by about 60 million years.
The brains of these birds are very similar to those of their ancestors, non-avian paravian dinosaurs such as Velociraptor. The comparison creates an arc about the lineage of extinct dinosaurs leading to modern birds.
According to the study, while crocodiles are not shown to take in visual perspective, all of the birds tested showed the ability, even engaging in a behavior called “checking back.”
This means that the spotted birds looked into the other’s eyes when they couldn’t find anything in the other’s eyes the first time. Previously, this was only observed in humans, monkeys and crows.
Given the neuroanatomical similarities between ancient birds and their non-avian ancestors, it is plausible that this ability arose even earlier in the dinosaur lineage.
“Birds are often overlooked when it comes to their cognitive abilities,” says Claudia Zetrag, first author of the study. in the current situation. “Our findings show that they have many cognitive abilities on par with those of apes, but it is likely that their ancestors had these abilities long before they evolved into mammals.”
Although “perspective taking” may have originated in dinosaurs, it is unlikely that the gift was present among the earliest of these dinosaurs, which had crocodile-like brains.
“If crocodilians didn’t have the ability that birds have, then this probably evolved in the lineage of dinosaurs after the separation,” explains Stephan Reber, one of the authors of the paper. species,” he concludes.
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