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Homing pigeons share our human ability to build knowledge across generations

• sciencedaily.com

The ability to gather, pass on and improve on knowledge over generations is known as cumulative culture. Until now humans and, arguably some other primates, were the only species thought to be capable of it.

Homing pigeons may share the human capacity to build on the knowledge of others, improving their navigational efficiency over time, a new Oxford University study has found.

The ability to gather, pass on and improve on knowledge over generations is known as cumulative culture. Until now humans and, arguably some other primates, were the only species thought to be capable of it.

Takao Sasaki and Dora Biro, Research Associates in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University, conducted a study testing whether homing pigeons can gradually improve their flight paths, over time. They removed and replaced individuals in pairs of birds that were given a specific navigational task. Ten chains of birds were released from the same site and generational succession was simulated with the continuous replacement of birds familiar with the route with inexperienced birds who had never flown the course before.

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