Natalie Uomini awarded Templeton World Charity Foundation grant

Her project, entitled ‘Teaching in wild New Caledonian crows’, will examine the factors that influence the evolution of teaching.

Natalie Uomini has recently been awarded a Templeton World Charity Foundation, Inc. (TWCF) grant for her project entitled ‘Teaching in wild New Caledonian crows’.

Intelligence is like a blackberry plant: a hidden network of roots lying dormant, whose sprouts can pop up in unexpected places when the conditions are right. In evolution, similar forms of intelligence can arise in many types of environments. There is not just one intelligence. Rather, it is manifested in a range of behaviors that vary depending on the animal and the situation. Like those pesky blackberry sprouts, teaching behaviors appeared in just a few animal species widely separated by evolution. The current open question in evolutionary science is: What factors trigger the convergent evolution of teaching?

Dr. Uomini hypothesizes that teaching evolves when survival skills are difficult to learn. A good candidate for animal teaching is wild New Caledonian crows. Using a combination of proven field experiments and the novel field methods she is developing, Dr. Uomini will document all possible teaching situations using high-quality, close-range video and audio recordings in a group of crows living in a forest of New Caledonia.

This project will contribute key data to understand what factors influence the evolution of teaching. The results will add a cross-species perspective to the study of human cognitive evolution. The case study will stimulate the identification of animal teaching in other species, and in turn will widen the scope of research into non-human minds.


About the Templeton World Charity Foundation

Templeton World Charity Foundation, Inc. (TWCF) is a global foundation headquartered in Nassau, The Bahamas with over 130 projects in 30 countries. The foundation aims to provide scientific breakthroughs and practical tools relating to the search for meaning, purpose, and truth.

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