Washington, August 19 : A research team has shown that magpies-a species with a brain structure very different from mammals-can recognise their own bodies in a mirror.
During a study, psychologist Helmut Prior and colleagues placed marks on the magpies' bodies in such a way that they could be seen in a mirror.
When the magpies engaged in activity that was directed towards the mark, such as scratching at it, the researchers were able to find that the birds recognized the image in the mirror as themselves, and not another animal.
Describing their study in the journal PLoS Biology, the researchers said that their findings indicated that non-mammalian species could engage in self-recognition behaviour.
The researchers further said that the findings also showed that self-recognition could occur in species without a neocortex, a brain area thought to be crucial to self-recognition in mammals.
According to them, the absence of this region in the present study suggests that higher cognitive skills can develop independently along separate evolutionary lines.
Mammals and birds have developed vastly different brain structures, and future studies will be able to further examine how these structures converge to produce similar cognitive abilities.