The nutcracker's superior memory

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The nutcracker has the most powerful avian memory so far identified. Native to the large Rocky Mountains in North America and the Grand Canyon, it lives on pine nuts that are edible for only a few weeks in September. Therefore, it stores them for later consumption. The distance between the pine trees and the storage site may sometimes be as much as 20 km (12.4 miles). It buries the nuts by placing them in the hard soil in a single movement; sometimes it leaves a stone on top as a marker. Over the course of three hectic weeks, the nutcracker collects nuts constantly. As it flies, it remembers the land’s contours, the trees it has visited, and the rock faces, all of which it adds to its mental map.

The nutcracker has to remember where it has buried 100,000 nuts along a portion of the Grand Canyon that measures hundreds of kilometers throughout this short but productive period. This is how it survives for the rest of the year. During winter, it has to remember the markers like a photograph, because the snow changes the landscape and renders the markers invisible. Nevertheless, it manages to locate 90% of the buried 100,000 pine nuts.

 


It is impossible for a bird to know that the food it needs will not be available after a certain period of time and that it has to collect and hide enough to survive. How did it learn how much food to collect at which time, where to store it, and how to find all of the 100,000 pine nuts again under the snow? Yet it does all of these things flawlessly, for like all other living entities, it acts according to Allah’s inspiration. Only the supervision and assistance of its Creator and the One Who inspires it to do certain things enables it to find its stored food, which has become invisible, without difficulty.

This amazing creation of Allah, Who observes all created entities and showers unlimited, boundless, and unknowable mercy upon them at all times, is plain for all to see. The details exhibited in such a tiny bird once again reveals His Might and greatness in the finest manner possible.

How many creatures do not carry their provision with them? Allah provides for them, and He will for you. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. (Surat al-‘Ankabut, 60)


2010-07-15 00:15:13
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