Pigeons, otherwise known as “Rock Doves,” were once popular animal models in comparative psychology and have contributed to considerable research on pigeon neuroanatomy and neuroendocrinology. Today they are important for learning about the mechanisms in the brain related to memory and navigation.
Researchers are exploring the ability of the common pigeon to reliably distinguish between benign and malignant tumors. Cancer detection most often relies on vision. Patholologists look at biopsy samples; radiologists look at imaging results. This can take many hours or days comparing results to determine if new treatments are more effective than others. A study was able to reach 99% diagnostic accuracy with pigeons detecting the cancer. Perhaps pigeon sill can be harnessed to minimize human labor required to accurately assess cancer screenings or researchers may eventually understand how pigeons do this an develop more effective ways to screen.
Pigeons are easy to house, breed well in captivity and typically lay two eggs. Optimal housing provides opportunities for flight, perching, bathing, napping, walking around, nesting and caring for young. This keeps the birds happy and healthy while they are on research studies or supporting physicians in evaluating cancer tests.