Don’t Think Animals Are Scary Smart? Read On.

Posted: January 7, 2017 in Animals, Fun Facts, Interesting Videos, Nature, Things I Love
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Listen, I always knew animals were way smarter than we all thought, but what put me over the edge was the day my best friend came into my life, a little Jack Russell terrier by the name of Sparky. The Spark has done things that have left me in shock and awe, including telling what he wanted for Christmas. Not even kidding. Click that link and read it. Read it now.

Finished? O.K.

I’ve also written a couple other stories about animal intelligence involving octopuses and crows, which you can read by clicking here:

Someday Octopuses Are Going To Rule The World

Crows? Yeah, Smarter Than You

So, what can I tell you? I’m fascinated by the brainpower of animals. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times – 100-years from now man will understand just how smart animals really are, and if we had that information today we’d be stunned. You’d see no more dogs chained out in the yard, no caged animals at the zoo, none of that nonsense whatsoever.

That said, here’s what we know now. Without further ado, I give you some amazingly intelligent animals.

Ravens and Crows

An Australian raven perched on a rail

“Nevermore.” Poe knew, man.

Oh, those Ravens. Ravens are more than the subject of dark themes by my favorite writer, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. They are also extremely resourceful animals that have been known to multi-task. Researchers from Canada and Scotland have shown that ravens use logic to understand their surroundings in a way that may surpass the ability of the great apes.

The crow, a close cousin to the raven, is also an extremely smart bird too. Seriously, click on that link up top. It will give you chills, man. Oh, and for their size, crows possess unusually big brains, which are proportionate to the chimpanzee brain. So there. Also, in a celebrated case a few years ago, an Israeli man was targeted by a local crow in an apparent revenge attack. The bird’s chick fell out of its nest and the man carried it outside of his backyard. It wasn’t long before the crow had him in its eye sights, forcing the man to wear a helmet and carry an umbrella for protection. Don’t mess with crows, man. Finally, Crows living in urban areas are known to gather nuts from trees and then place them in the street for passing cars to crack open the shells. Then, after waiting patiently for the light to change, they return to the street to retrieve their tasty goodness. That’s impressive, especially since I had the occasional 5th grader who couldn’t figure out how to open a juice box.

Dolphins

dolphins

Of course Dolphins are on the list. Dolphins are well-documented as extremely intelligent animals (click on the link and watch that video!).The dolphin’s large brain is structured for awareness and emotion. In fact, dolphin brains are more structurally complex than humans. You heard that right, dummies. And Emory University dolphin expert Lori Marino had this to say: “If human standards for intelligence are applied to non-human animals, dolphins come very close to our own brain aptitude levels.” Preach it, Lori! And get a load of this – a dolphin in Australia was seen using a sponge to protect her snout when foraging on the seafloor, a tool use behavior that is passed on from mother to daughter. Wow. Other signs of dolphins brain power includes distinct whistles and clicks that may serve as dolphin names, perhaps used in a type of language. One more story. Years ago some employees at Seaworld in California came up with the idea of training their dolphins to pick up trash that had been dropped into their enclosure. The trainers would give a fish to any dolphin that brought a candy bar wrapper or any other piece of trash to them. Then one day while cleaning the pool, a scuba diver found a bunch of trash jammed up under an overhang. After further observation, it was found that the dolphins were stashing the trash and giving it to the trainers when they were hungry. Turns out the dolphins were training the trainers. Man, that’s cool, amirite? Hey, after listening to marine animal researchers present evidence at a conference in 2010, Thomas White, a professor of ethics at Loyola Marymount University was moved to declare that dolphins should be considered “non-human persons” who qualify for “moral standing as individuals. All I have to say about that is this:

Rats

Rats munch on some carrots

I also recently wrote about rats in the acclaimed and magnificently titled blog, “Rats”. Click on that link, damn it! Click it!

Perceived as purveyors of disease, Rats have earned a bad and sometimes deserved reputation, but they are in reality very clean and highly intelligent creatures. They show compassion by taking care of the sick in their group, and without companionship rats tend to become lonely and depressed, just like you and I.* In addition, rats have excellent memories. Once they learn a navigation route, they won’t forget it. In other words, once they find they way to your bedroom they will not forget it. W-e-e-e-e!

*Well, maybe youI hardly ever get lonely. I’m perfectly happy with my best friend The Spark.

Pigs

Millions of pigs dying from virus

Pigs telling jokes.

Man, I hate to hear this. Why? Because I really love bacon. Anyhoo, pigs may be the smartest domestic animals in the world. Researchers have found that domestic pigs can use mirrors to find their food, and will try to deceive other pigs so they can hog more food. Get it? Hog their food? Nothing? OK. They also learn quickly and can do tricks ranging from jumping through hoops to playing video games with joysticks. I swear to God I didn’t make up that last sentence. Bottom line, pigs are as easily trained as dogs, except Sparky of course. Hell, I’d get a pig for a pet if I didn’t think Spark would, you know, eat it.

Chimps and Bonobos

Bonobos

“You lookin’ at me?”

I group these two together for obvious reasons. If humans possess intelligence, chimpanzees must have some as well, because our genomes (the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism) are at least 98% identical. Chimps make and use tools, hunt in organized groups and, like us, murder each other. Wild troops also have distinct behaviors and customs. Field observations and lab experiments show chimps are capable of empathy, altruism and even self-awareness, unlike the Kardashians and our newly-elected Leader of the Free World.

And what is a Bonobo, you ask? The Bonobo is a close cousin to the chimpanzee, another big-time intelligent animal. Extremely endangered, the Bonobo is found only in central Africa. Like other apes, Bonobos have been taught to use sign language and symbols. One Bonobo named Kanzi, for instance, was reported to carry his own symbol-communication board with him so he could talk to his human researchers, and he also invented combinations of symbols to express his thoughts. Amazing really.

Ducks

funny-duck_12551_600x450

Whaddup?

Wait. What? Ducks? What quack came up with this idea? We all know ducklings imprint on their mothers, but scientists were curious about how the ducklings managed to differentiate between imprinted beings and non-imprinted. They put ducklings in an enclosure and trailed two different pairs of objects around on strings, one matching pair of shapes (like two spheres) and one pair of non-matching shapes (like a cylinder and a cube). After the duckling showed a tendency toward a set, the researchers put the ducklings in a different enclosure with different matching and non-matching pairs. The ducklings would follow after whatever set best resembled their original imprint. So, if they followed the two spheres in the first enclosure, they would follow a set of matching cubes in the second enclosure. This tendency, according to researchers, has only been seen in primates, crows and parrots before, indicating that ducks may be smarter than we’ve thought. Ducks. Who knew?

Elephants

An elephant walks in the African savanna

Everyone knows elephants are brainiacs, right? Their brains have as many neurons as the human brain. Elephants have been using tools such as sticks to pick at ticks, palm fronds to swat at flies and logs to throw at people for years. Young elephants who have had bells put on their necks have developed a habit of plugging up the bell with mud or clay so that the bells cannot ring, so they can sneak into a grove and steal bananas at night.  True story. The latest shocker about elephants came recently when scientists discovered that elephants successfully performed tasks, during an experiment commonly used with primates, in a test their understanding of cooperation. In this particular test, the elephants had to coordinate their efforts so that each could get a bucket of corn. They passed with flying colors. Elephants? No dumbos.

Cows

A herd of cows in AustraliaDid you know that cows are not only smart but get emotional And who wants to hurt a cow’s feelings? Not me. Nobody wants a beef with a cow, man. Cows may seem like placid animals that are only concerned with chewing their cud, but as it turns out, they possess a rich and complex emotional life. Scientists report that cows have friends and enemies. And yes, cows are also capable of feeling strong emotions such as pain, fear and even anxiety — they worry about the future, as they clearly should. Don’t think cows can show emotion? Watch this video. I may never eat another Quarter Pounder again.

Bees

A bumblebee sucking nectar on an echinacea purpurea flower head

Bees? Well, yes, in a different way. Bees exhibit what experts call “classic swarm intelligence”, which I’ve sometimes witnessed by parents after yelling at their kids. Kidding. Anyway, a single bee may not be smart in the classical sense, but a hive of bees can be. Swarm intelligence works when no single creature sees “the big picture.” Rather, each works on simple rules in one location. But what happens when bees disagree? It turns out that they can hold a democratic “dance-off” to make a hive decision. Seriously, click on that link. Wild stuff.

Squirrels

squirrel on branch

Ever been in the city and been amazed when you saw a squirrel dart across a crowded street? It’s no accident that they hardly ever get run over. Squirrels are fast learners, and according to researchers they learn from their peers. Another trick that squirrels pass along is how to steal food. They also cover their fur in rattlesnake scent to scare their enemies. Squirrels are diabolical, man. This little dude’s persistence and impeccable memory have made it the nemesis of gardeners everywhere. Most squirrels display an impressive array of tricks and strategies that help them survive, too. Ever try and and keep squirrels out of your bird feeder? Then you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout, Willis.*

*I beg you to click on that link. You’ll thank me for it.

And one more incredible fact – squirrels also pretend to hide food in order to confuse potential thieves that may be watching them.

Pigeons

Pigeons are everywhere in most major cities of North America, but most people think of them as pests. However, this cool cat of a bird is actually quite smart. Because pigeons have been the subjects of countless scientific experiments, there is a boatload of info about their intellectual abilities. For example, pigeons can recognize hundreds of images even after several years have passed. They can also identify themselves in a mirror, be taught to perform a sequence of movements and to discriminate subtle differences between two objects – pretty impressive for a mere pest, don’tcha think? On the other hand, doves? Really dumb. I know because they barely move when I pull into my driveway. Either that or they have a dangerously slow reaction time.

So, is this a definitive list? It may not be. Hell, we just recently found out how smart ants are, for God’s sake. For all we know gerbils may be plotting against us and hummingbirds might just be planning an all-out attack from the skies. But as I said, someday, maybe after we are long gone and we have an Octopi for president, we shall come to the full realization that we are not the only smart species on planet earth.

Stay tuned, humans.

 

 

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