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Rooks & Archimedes

September 1, 2009

Birds called rooks can use a surprisingly ingenious strategy to get a worm.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Brainy birds…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

According to legend, the Greek mathematician Archimedes was in the bath when he realized that his body raised the water level in the tub. It turns out that birds called rooks can grasp the same principle. University of Cambridge zoologist Christopher Bird led the study. His team found that rooks could retrieve a tasty worm from a tall tube of shallow water – by dropping stones into the tube to raise the water level.

CHRISTOPHER BIRD (University of Cambridge):
Two out of the four birds we tested were able to do it immediately; the other two birds that we used did it from their second attempt.

HIRSHON:
Remarkably, he says rooks probably don’t do this in the wild, since circumstances would rarely demand it. But they may pick up some basic principles of physics from other activities, such as building complex nests. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.