World’s Smartest Animals And intelligent animals on Earth
ANIMALS Discover fascinating facts about some of the most intelligent animals on Earth
DID YOU KNOW?
Gorillas in the Republic of the Congo were observed using large sticks to test the depth of swamp water
Although humans don’t top the food chain, what we lack in physical ability we certainly make up for in mind. But that’s not to say we’re the only smart animals on the planet. Apes have long been considered our closest living relatives since we share over 90 per cent of their DNA, but we’re also surprisingly similar in the intellectual stakes to other species too. However, judging animal intelligence is not as easy as getting them to sit a multiple-choice
exam. In fact, scientists have spent decades devising methods in order to weed out the brainless from the brainy. Researchers will spend years in the wild observing a species’ natural behavior in order to get a better insight into how they learn, solve problems and make decisions. Combining that with controlled lab testing methods, we’re finally getting a better understanding of what animals are capable of. Many animals, including domesticated pets, display cleverness and a desire to learn, but a
small handful of species really outshine others when it comes to being truly intelligent. For example, the ability to memories and recall past events in order to make decisions that will affect the present and future is found only in some of the very smartest animals on Earth. Join us in this feature as we uncover the facts about eight of the most intelligent creatures. From land mammals to marine life, you’ll be surprised by how smart these animals really are and how similar they are to us.
The great apes
Apes are not quite ready to take over the planet, but they are certainly among the most intelligent animals on Earth. In particular, chimpanzees have been subject to numerous research projects over the years to discover more about their intellectual similarities to humans. Observations have shown these brainiac are capable of solving complex problems, are adept at decision-making and will even make and use tools in the wild to help forage for food. They also have an impressive memory and are able to recognize other chimps and humans they have not seen for several years. In captivity, chimps have been taught to communicate and convey ideas using sign language and lexigrams.
How sign language helps us communicate with apes
In 1967, a chimpanzee named Washoe became the subject of cognitive research. Allen and Beatrix Gardner aimed to discover whether chimps could master American sign language (ASL), after previous attempts to teach vocal languages to chimps had failed. To teach sign language to Washoe, they raised her in the same way as a human child and avoided verbal communication. Washoe eventually mastered around 130 signs and she also passed her skills onto her son Louis. Since the experiment, many other chimps have been taught to use sign language and lexigrams as a way of communicating with humans.
Chimp genes shared with humans
Rats are highly intelligent and have been used in scientific research for decades due to their learning ability. They have poor eyesight but are natural problem solvers with an excellent memory that enables them to navigate a route to food without ever forgetting the way. They are also very social and bound quickly with their own kind and humans, and can be trained to perform tricks as well as learn to respond to their own names when called. Gambian pouched rats have even been trained to successfully detect land mines in Africa using their heightened sense of smell.
Elephants are said to never forget. While that may be true, their long-term memory is not the only thing that makes these gentle giants so clever. Scientific observations have proved elephants are also cultured, self-aware and adept to solving problems. In fact, they will use tools in their environment to help them reach food and even coordinate their efforts. Recent research has also shown that elephants are able to tell some human languages apart, and they are able to grasp a person’s age, gender and whether they’re a threat based on their voice. Elephants in captivity have also displayed an interest in music and some even engage in art with a clear understanding of color!
It’s no secret that dolphins are the most intelligent animals in the ocean. Like humans, they are self-aware and learn as individuals who can then educate others based on their own experiences. Passing knowledge between generations means dolphins create certain behaviors unique within their social groups. They are also creative thinkers and especially so when it comes to play and foraging for food. In the wild, dolphins have been known to partake in games of catch using things found in their environment, such as seaweed. They also have a strong memory and a sophisticated language that helps them to communicate with one another.
These clever critters are pretty deceptive when it comes to protecting their stash of food and will fool potential thieves by pretending to hide food when they know they’re being watched. Squirrels also have an impressive memory recall and are able to plan ahead for the winter months by concealing food around the forest that they can locate months later. What’s more, squirrels have been scientifically proven to learn behaviors from others, which makes them pretty smart. Squirrels in California have even been observed covering themselves in the scent of rattlesnakes to ward off predators.
Octopuses are pretty skilled problem solvers. For many years, these flexible invertebrates were overlooked when it came to intelligence, however, scientific research has proven them to be quite astute. In fact, octopuses have both short and long-term memory and have been trained in experiments to tell the difference between shapes and patterns. They are also able to problem solve their way out of conﬁned spaces, navigate through mazes and skilfully open jars that contain food.
Crows are by no means bird-brained; they are in fact cunning and innovative animals that have adapted expertly to their environment. In urban towns and cities, for instance, crows have been observed positioning nuts on the road and waiting for passing cars to crack their tough shells, they’ll even wait for a red light before retrieving the snack! What’s more, they have a fantastic memory and have been proven to remember human faces and even hold grudges. Crows will also communicate and play tricks on one another in order to hide food they plan to store
Pigs are one of the most misunderstood species on Earth. Despite their reputation, these smart swine’s are clean animals and have proven through various scientific studies to be as smart as a three-year-old child! They are impressively fast learners who can respond to their own name, as well as be trained to perform various tasks and tricks, including playing video games! Pigs are also incredibly social animals that communicate with one another using a range of different grunts and squeals – sows will even sing to their young when nursing. What’s more, they have excellent long-term memory and a very good sense of direction, so are able to memories where food is located and how to get home even from miles away.