Is it evil to exploit the stupid?

In a word, probably. Wal-Mart does it, and they are the closest thing we have to the Empire from the Star Wars series. At the same time, maybe it isn’t so much evil as inherently dickish. This fits, because a lot of people tend to think of crows and ravens as little more than black feathered assholes who tear up garbage and make a lot of noise.

Now, part of my job here at Zombie Chops is to dispel that view. Crows are possibly second only to humans as being the most intelligent life on Earth, so while we may view what they do a lot of times as being jerks, those jerk moves are typically signs of advanced intelligence. Just look at humans; roughly 98% of us are dicks while the other 2% is the Dalai Lama, and we are technically the smartest things in the world.

One thing the smart and amoral do is use people. Con artists are often incredibly smart, they just happen to have no moral fiber, so they use their skill and brains to screw other people into doing things for them. It turns out that ravens have the same kind of manipulative brains. During a study of ravens in Africa, a pair of Israeli scientists noticed that they were doing something peculiar around Egyptian vultures and ostrich eggs.

You see, ostriches are ruled by an alpha pair, much like a lot of other animals that gather in groups. When it comes time to lay eggs, the alpha pair lay theirs, then everyone else lay a bunch around them in hopes that their kids get to be born. (On a side note, if we adopted this policy, we might have a few less Duggars in the world. I’m just sayin’.) This leaves a massive pile of never-to-be-born babies laying around in giant-egg form, which is a buttload of food just waiting for whatever animal is clever enough to get at it.


Again, just like the Duggars…

Now, the vultures are reasonably bright; they have discovered that they can use a rock to pound on the thick-shelled ostrich eggs to get to the sweet-sweet baby-goo inside; they can do this because they are around 2 feet tall and designed to kill things/tear apart corpses for a living. Ravens, however, are not. Corvids (ravens, crows, magpies, etc) are perching birds (Passerines), which means they have feet well adapted for sitting in trees, not for killing things, and their beaks are relatively weak. Now, anyone who has ever seen a crow with some peanuts knows they can crack the shells by using their faces like a hammer. I will also mention that my kid, who is a small girl can crush a peanut in her hand; I mention this because peanut shells are near the bottom of the “strength” list. Ostrich eggs, on the other hand, have incredibly thick shells and require power-tools to open if you want to make an omelet.

This situation leaves us with ravens unable to get to the discarded egg-yums of the world’s largest bird, and those wise-ass vultures enjoying all the benefits of tool use. What the scientists discovered was that the ravens had a tool of their own, namely the vultures. It turns out that the ability to use a tool does not necessarily mean you have the brain power or memory to understand slightly more complex concepts, like some jerk(s) waiting for you to finish doing all the work for food and then taking it from you.

In case the last sentence didn’t make it clear, that is exactly what the ravens were doing. They would hide while the vulture went to town cracking eggs with a rock, and a soon as the egg was open, jump out and harass the poor bastard until he left in frustration. Then, presumably, they would high-five with their wings and settle in to some jumbo-egg and maybe catch the game. Now, if this happened to be a one-time thing, that would have been pretty impressive, but the really amazing part was that these ravens camped out and did this repeatedly, often with the same idiot vulture. Apparently Egyptian ravens know how to get the job done using lackeys, who are in turn smart enough to use a tool, but too dumb to remember that the same two jerks in the same outfit are going to come steal his lunch. I knew a kid like that in school.

 

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