from the I-could-have-told-you-that dept.
Whether it's calculating your risk of catching the new coronavirus or gauging the chance of rain on your upcoming beach vacation, you use a mix of statistical, physical, and social information to make a decision. So do New Zealand parrots known as keas, scientists report today. It's the first time this cognitive ability has been demonstrated outside of apes, and it may have implications for understanding how intelligence evolved.
"It's a neat study," says Karl Berg, an ornithologist and parrot expert at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville, who was not involved with this research.
[...] The findings indicate that keas, like humans, have something known as "domain general intelligence"—the mental ability to integrate several kinds of information, the researchers argue. That's despite the fact that birds and humans last shared a common ancestor some 312 million years ago and have markedly different brain anatomies. Previously, cognitive researchers have argued that domain general intelligence requires language.
Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist and expert on parrot cognition at Harvard University, is skeptical. Pepperberg, who worked with the famed parrot Alex for 31 years, says the kea showed "some intuitive understanding, but not ... real statistical knowledge." In her view, the study could not prove the birds understand in detail how the proportions of tokens in a jar influence the probability of a reward.
If kea really do have the abilities the study suggests, there's a good reason they evolved it, Berg says. Animals with even basic statistical and predictive skills should be able to estimate amounts of food or the availability of mates, and so end up with more offspring and evolutionary success, he says. In other words, if you've mastered Statistics 101, you're likely to succeed in the game of life.
Even though it has only been a short while since our last round-up there are 22 separate stories merged into this round-up. Many report duplicate news but, nevertheless, we have tried to distill the important elements of each submission.
Firstly, there is some confusion regarding the actual names that are reported for the virus, the disease that it causes, and names frequently seen in media reporting. From https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-020-0695-z:
The present outbreak of a coronavirus-associated acute respiratory disease called coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) is the third documented spillover of an animal coronavirus to humans in only two decades that has resulted in a major epidemic. The Coronaviridae Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, which is responsible for developing the classification of viruses and taxon nomenclature of the family Coronaviridae, has assessed the placement of the human pathogen, tentatively named 2019-nCoV, within the Coronaviridae. Based on phylogeny, taxonomy and established practice, the CSG recognizes this virus as forming a sister clade to the prototype human and bat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses (SARS-CoVs) of the species Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus, and designates it as SARS-CoV-2.
In order to facilitate communication, the CSG proposes to use the following naming convention for individual isolates: SARS-CoV-2/host/location/isolate/date. While the full spectrum of clinical manifestations associated with SARS-CoV-2 infections in humans remains to be determined, the independent zoonotic transmission of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 highlights the need for studying viruses at the species level to complement research focused on individual pathogenic viruses of immediate significance. This will improve our understanding of virus–host interactions in an ever-changing environment and enhance our preparedness for future outbreaks.
There is much more information at the link provided.
Secondly, as this is a fusion of stories received over the last week or so take all quoted figures of casualties as possibly out-of-date. At the time of merging these stories (12 Mar 20) there have been 127,863 confirmed cases world-wide resulting in 4,717 deaths. 68,309 people have already recovered with the remainder either in self-imposed or advisory isolation, in basic hospital care and a relatively small number in critical care. The pandemic has affected 116 countries/regions. Source: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6 - a graphical display produced by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
Many countries have taken emergency measures to restrict travel or large gatherings of people. As this is a very fluid situation we suggest you refer to the media of any specific country in which you have an interest. President Trump has banned transatlantic air travel from countries in mainland Europe to the USA from Friday 2020-03-13 at 23:59 (no timezone stated) for a period initially of 30 days, and air travel within Europe is also significantly disrupted.