Crows and ravens are well known for their black color and the harsh “caw” sound they make. They are intelligent birds that use tools, solve complex abstract problems and speak a volume of words.
But what is less well appreciated is how diverse they are. Their diversity is accompanied by their ability to live all over the world in a variety of habitats. In fact, they are one of the most widespread group of birds worldwide. Crows and ravens — part of the avian family of Corvids that also includes jays and magpies — underwent rapid global expansion, unlike other family members that stayed mostly within single continents.
What is their secret to this amazing planetary expansion?
They have great flying ability, which allows them to gain access to new places more easily. While their flying skills were key to their success, new research from Washington University in St. Louis also shows that big bodies and big brains played an important role in helping crows and ravens survive in the new climates they occupied.
The new study is published April 21 in Nature Communications.
“When we think about processes of global diversification, it is important to consider not just the ability to reach new places, but also the ability to survive once you get there. Our work suggests that crows and the ravens diversified both quickly and widely because they were particularly good at coping with different habitats,” said Carlos Botero, PhD, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences.