Assuming that having a bigger brain makes you smarter turns out to be a very dumb idea.
A new study published in Royal Society Open Science has found that raven intelligence is on a par with that of chimpanzees.
Although ravens have much smaller heads, and thus brains, it's actually neuron density and brain structure that's more relevant to how smart an animal is.
"Absolute brain size is not the whole story," said researcher Can Kabadayi in a statement. "We found that corvid birds performed as well as great apes, despite having much smaller brains."
They tested the idea by challenging ravens to get hold of a piece of food inside a clear plastic tube. Slower animals try to get at the food through the plastic, while more intelligent ones know to use the openings at the end of the tube. Ravens went through the openings at every try, a success rate of 100 percent.
"This shows that bird brains are quite efficient, despite having a smaller absolute brain size. As indicated by the study, there might be other factors apart from absolute brain size that are important for intelligence, such as neuronal density," added Kabadayi. "There is still so much we need to understand and learn about the relationship between intelligence and brain size, as well as the structure of a bird's brain, but this study clearly shows that bird brains are not simply birdbrains after all!"
Of course, as Douglas Adams observed, animals may all be a lot smarter than we assume: “Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much - the wheel, New York, wars and so on - whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man - for precisely the same reasons.”