Be modest, homo sapiens! Part two

For most people the evidence is clear: humans are the peak of evolution. Our intelligence is justified by certain criteria, such as our ability to use tools, solve riddles or fulfill complex tasks. Today, research has proven that many animals can keep up with humans on different levels. Just have a look part two of our collection of 10 facts that prove the intelligence of animals.

English: House Crow മലയാളം: പേനക്കാക്ക

6. Animals use tools

For a long time using a tool was considered to be an exclusively human skill. Today we know that monkeys use branches to get termites and sea otters use small rocks to crack mussels. Scientist discovered that some animals even go further the usual try-and-error-method of using tools: their approach is comparable to playing chess. In 2009 Oxford researchers found out that ravens go through the possible tools and steps before taking action. When they wanted to snag a piece of meat out of a hole they usually took the right tool or even modified it to be successful.
The British researcher Nathan Emery made a remarkable observation: In Japan the crows used the local, busy traffic to prepare their food. They dropped nuts on the street, right before traffic lights so that the cars would crack the shell. When the traffic lights turned red the crows would fly down and get the inside of the nuts.

7. Animals can learn our language

Cute Dog Puppy

Dogs can learn language skills as fast as infants Photo credit: epSos.de

Most dog owners are convinced that their pets truly understand. The prove was given by Rico, a border collie who participated in Germany’s TV show “Wetten, dass…“. Rico’s owner called the name of one out of more than 70 items, and the dog would bring the right thing. Scientists of the Max Planck Institute investigates Rico’s cognitive skills. Their conclusion: Rico could learn new words as fast as an infant, and dogs use the same inborn skills as humans. After Rico got famous, other dog owners said their pet has similar capabilities. The Austrian border collie Betsy could even find unknown items that she just saw on a photo. The scientist of Leipzig University, Germany, who investigated the case, are sure that Betsy’s ability of abstraction is like ours. She could even bring the right item when she has never heard the name before, just out of exclusion of the others.

8. Animals can learn the meaning of words

Alex could calculate, distinguish colours and shapes and tell others what he would like for breakfast. But his brain was just the size of walnut. Harvard graduate Irene Pepperberg taught the little grey parrot to understand and speak English – in order to understand his way of thinking. “Want grape,” he croaked early morning. Until his death he learned about 100 words – and their meanings. To prove his capabilities Irene Pepperberg showed him a green key and a green mug, and asked, “What is the similar?”. “Colour,” Alex said right away. “What is different?” Alex answered, “Shape.” He could count objects and do easy maths. Pepperberg assumes this skill helps birds to see whether the swarm is complete. He liked to demonstrate his abilities to others: “Talk clearly,” he often said to another bird that had troubles pronouncing some words. Alex was also quite creative: Sometimes the parrot asked for a “ban-erry”: “Apples taste for him a bit like bananas, but they look like cherries,” Pepperberg explains to the German magazine Focus.

9. Animals have a sense for art

Painting by Noppakhao. Photo credit: elephantart.com

Painting by Noppakhao. Photo credit: elephantart.com

Scientists often observed wild elephants drawing in the sand with a stick. The first research on a painting elephant began with Ruby, who lived at Phoenix Zoo. She was born in Thailand and came to Phoenix in 1973. Her keeper watched her scratching in the sand and then offered her a brush and colours – thus her career as an artist began. She was aid to be quite picky with colours and she drew abstract painting which sold up to $25,000. Also other elephant started a painting career. Many draw trees and even other elephants (or self portraits?). You can also buy the great works at websites like elephant art and by doing so support conservation projects. It is really fun to watch the grey mammals at their work, here is the Indian elephant Suda painting an elephant with a flower.

10. Animals lie

Some animals abuse their intelligence for their own needs, many of them gathered in the register of animal lies by the Scottish researchers Richard Byrne and Andrew Whiter.

Distinct sexual size dimorphism can be seen be...

Baboons lie for their own benefit. Photo credit: Wikipedia

They explained that monkeys often lie to get an advantage. Baboons for example only cry loudly when there is danger. But researcher observed baboons crying so that their herd ran away and they got the food for themselves. Richard Byrne and Andrew Whiter gathered a register of animal lies.

Probably it is too superficial to argue humans are different from other animals because of their intelligence. Oxford scientists Alex Kacelnik explains that during history different forms of evolutions have evolved, and that intelligence is not reserved for humans or other mammals. Or do you think you could beat Tommy the seal?

Share your thoughts and anecdotes about intelligent animals!



4 thoughts on “Be modest, homo sapiens! Part two

  1. Pingback: Be modest, homo sapiens! 10 fascinating facts about other intelligent species | Natural Close-ups

  2. I wonder where the profits obtained from the elephant paintings go?
    I think this can be another form of animal exploitation. Using animals for human amusement. Can’t humans create their own ways of entertainment without the use of animals?

    • Yes, I absolutely agree. But this case might be a bit different. Even wild elephants draw pictures in the sand, so it is not really an unnatural behaviour. The Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project (AEACP) states that the money from the paintings goes into conservation projects to help Asian elephants.They say by this they can finance the measurements required for conservation (probably because of a lack of donations and subsidies for Asian elephants). I hope the paintings help people to see that animals can have deep feelings and a soul. But, you are right: it could be a form of exploitation. It’s a thin line.

  3. Thank you for sharing this.
    We need more people to see this and understand that self awareness and humanity are not unique to homo sapiens.
    We say, “stupid monkey and his fuzzy math”… but the bonobo has shown us math skills, in arithmetic, an ability to multiply large numbers, that blows my species out of the water. they’re WAY faster than us.
    We say, “dogs are dirty”, but many of us leave skidmarks in our underwear, whereas dogs make sure to lick themselves clean.
    We say “stupid goats will eat anything”… meanwhile, we eat plastic food made in 3D printers, designed to make us keep eating more and more because they don’t add the corn starch fat replacement molecule substitutes which should be there, in order to turn off the production of hunger neurotransmitters.
    But those damn Titan chocolate bars are addictive, lol. yeah, I know, hypocrite, lol.
    But hey, mea culpa. I’m only a stupid human, after all.

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