RIP Alex

BD_alex.jpgWe were sad to hear yesterday that Alex, a gifted parrot studied by Brandeis scientists for 30 years (and part of our Smartest City on the Planet package from October, 2006) has died.

Alex’s bird brain was above average, and led scientists to revise their thinking on how avian brains work. According to the Globe, Alex had the emotional development of a 2 year-old (he seems well-loved for such a temperamental disposition) and the intellectual capacity of a 5 year-old (he probably made some adorable collages).

The scientists are reeling both professionally and emotionally from the loss of Alex. After watching his brain develop, the scientists were applying that knowledge to help children with disabilities communicate. And then there’s the deep grief that comes with losing a colleague:

[Scientist Irene] Pepperberg said she and her fellow Brandeis researchers have taken the bird’s death hard. She waited until yesterday to release the news, in part to give researchers time to get over the shock so they could speak about Alex.

There’s no word on how Alex’s avian colleagues feel since they can’t talk as well as the late bird, who seemed to be a bit of a perfectionist:

Two other parrots remain in Pepperberg’s lab: Griffin, age 12, and Arthur, age 8. . . . When Griffin or Arthur would mumble their words, Alex was known to say “talk better,” Pepperberg said.

We’re genuinely sorry for Brandeis’ loss, and we also hope that Griffin and Arthur can step it up to honor Alex’s memory.