Animal Intelligence



Source : http://discovermagazine.com/2016/jul-aug/animal-intelligence
Everything Worth Knowing About ... Animal Intelligence

Humans aren’t the only brainiacs
By Kristin Ohlson
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Note from NEEEEEXT : it has been proved and demonstrated that some animals (like ants, termites, rats or bees) are more intelligent than humans for organisation, social behaviour, communication, problem solving, building, hunting, farming, harvesting, self-protection, adaptation, ...
The animal world is starting to surprise us in many ways and it is just the beginning.
We are in 2017 and, sorry to say, humans are not anymore on top of the intelligence scale.
It is time to WAKE UP and learn from them !!!

Angela Lau

The Germanic god Odin tended a smorgasbord of divine duties — healing, death, poetry and knowledge among them — but he might have been a somewhat less powerful one-eyed immortal without his animal helpers. According to Norse texts, ravens named Thought and Mind sat on the god’s shoulders, departing every morning to spy on humans for him.

The old myths about clever animals may have been closer to the truth than science has been for much of its history. Until fairly recently, animals were considered to be unthinking machines and humans the only truly intelligent species. But aided by new tests that allow animals to show their smarts unhobbled by human preconception, scientists have discovered that there may be more similarities between human and animal intelligence than differences. To paraphrase an old hymn: All creatures great and small, we appear to have a cognitive kinship with them all.

Brainy Bees

Angel Lau

Humans admire bee efficiency, but generally assume they are just tiny, well-programmed robots. Researchers are now uncovering a range of brainy skills previously thought to be exclusive to larger animals. In the Bee Sensory and Behavioural Ecology Lab at Queen Mary University of London, Lars Chittka and his colleagues found that bees count in simple ways and recognize faces. More recently, the Chittka lab has found that bees can be trained, using drops of sucrose as a reward or drops of quinine as a deterrent, to distinguish between two different colors more accurately and more quickly. The lab is also studying how bees copy each other. Chittka is testing this social learning in the lab by observing how inexperienced bees learn the quickest routes to flower patches by mimicking seasoned foragers.



Angela Lau

Those lucky enough to have seen a pair of dolphins bounding across the water know how playful they can be.

Hunter College comparative psychologist Diana Reiss, who has studied dolphin behavior since the 1980s, discovered that they’re also able to communicate in surprisingly sophisticated ways. In one experiment, she installed an underwater keyboard that functioned as a vending machine. Each key had a different symbol, emitted a specific whistle when pushed, and delivered a treat — balls, hoops or rubs.

The dolphins quickly learned the associations, but what really intrigued Reiss was how they imitated the keys’ whistles and even combined the whistles as they invented new games involving both hoops and balls. The study offered the first glimpse of the process of vocal learning in dolphins.

Now, Reiss wants to get a better understanding of how individual dolphins embed newly acquired whistles in their interactions. “We’re separated by 95 million years of evolution, and we haven’t made much progress understanding their communication,” says Reiss.

Crafty Corvids

Angela Lau

Ravens, it seems, never forget a beaked face. In the wild, the birds live in groups until they select mates, then each pair diverges into a solitary, conjugal life.

In the lab, researchers mimic these social arrangements and keep pairs in separate aviaries. But the ravens remember their old comrades from group life and recognize their recorded calls, reacting one way to birds that were their friends and another to ones that were not.

Jorg Massen and his colleagues at the University of Vienna conducted a study that looked at the birds’ understanding of third-party relations. They wanted to know whether ravens have a mental representation of the way others should act. It appears they do.

Working with one group of birds, Massen’s team played recorded calls of other ravens the birds had observed but hadn’t interacted with. They chose calls that would deliberately upset the hierarchy — for instance, playing the submissive call of a No. 2 bird after a dominance call from No. 3. They found that the birds had little patience for rebelliousness, even in groups other than their own. “It represents a turnover in rank, and they react strongly to it,” Massen explains. “If this were The Sopranos, it would be as if one of the underbosses were shouting at Tony.”

Don't Underestimate Reptiles

Angela Lau

Animals like chimps and dolphins are famed for their intelligence. But new evidence reveals cleverness in creatures considered primevally dumb: reptiles.

“If we’re going to understand the evolution of the brain and of intelligence, we have to look across the gamut of species,” says Anna Wilkinson of the University of Lincoln in the U.K. When trained to hit a blue dot on a touch screen with their beaks, her red-footed tortoises used what they learned in a real-world situation. Placed in an arena, they headed straight for a blue bowl that resembled the dot on the screen.

Wilkinson says the tortoises performed the touch-screen task better than dogs, perhaps because they must fend for themselves as soon as they’re hatched. Her work with tortoises and lizards challenges the idea that social interactions, rather than the physical environment, select for intelligence. “You do see impressive cognition among animals with complex group living, but there hasn’t been much exploration of cognition in less social animals,” Wilkinson says. “I think the cognitive abilities of reptiles will receive a lot more attention in the future.”

Clever Chimps

Angela Lau

Scientists have known since the early 20th century that chimps are capable strategists — they’ll stack boxes to reach a dangling bunch of bananas, for instance.

In 2015, Harvard researchers Alexandra Rosati and Felix Warneken decided to see whether the primates were able to handle something assumed to be exclusively human: cooking. We cook so routinely that it may seem like a no-brainer, but it requires a number of cognitive abilities, including self-control, causal reasoning and planning. At the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of the Congo, Rosati and Warneken offered chimpanzees a choice: They could place raw slices of food in a device that would return it to them uncooked, or in another that would deliver cooked slices.

The team didn’t give the chimps the chance to do real cooking out of concern that they might mimic humans they’d witnessed cooking, or that they’d burn themselves. The chimps, which favored the cooked food and even moved raw slices from the other device over to the “oven,” showed they had some of the basic cognitive skills for cooking, but Rosati says it’s unlikely that they’ll start gathering for potlucks. “You need to be able to sit around and share for a human-like cooking system to emerge, and chimps have a difficult time with that.”

If Animals Are Smart, Where Does That Leave Us ?

Alena Hovorkova/Shutterstock

Hearing about the cleverness of animals makes some people a little uncomfortable.

“People want to be special,” says Jennifer Vonk, a comparative psychologist at Oakland University in Michigan who studies bears, cats and other animals. “Every time a researcher finds that tool use or theory of mind or language-like communication is not unique to humans, somebody comes up with new categories that raise the bar.” But primatologist Frans de Waal, a leader in the animal cognition field, suggests it’s time we wipe our minds of the Aristotelian notion of the scala naturae, which placed animals in a hierarchical ranking of complexity with humans at the top.

“Animal cognition is more like a bush,” de Waal says. “The corvids [crows and ravens] branch in one direction, the dolphins in another, the primates, including us, in another. You can’t put them on a simple scale, because all animals are very smart in what they need to do to survive.”

[This article originally appeared in print as "Animal Intelligence."]


Author's page : http://list25.com/25-most-intelligent-animals-on-earth/

      25 Most Intelligent Animals On Earth

Posted by Josef, Updated on May 25, 2014

Although most people wouldn’t typically associate extreme intelligence with animals, that is a bit of a misconception. While they are obviously not able to match the computational and meta cognitive power of the human brain there are certain things some animals specialize in for which their minds are uniquely adapted. In some ways you could say they are smarter (or more functional) than even humans at performing these tasks.

These are the 25 most intelligent animals on Earth (2014).

25 Squids

Squids are said to be among the brainiest invertebrates in the world. Their brain structure is different from other invertebrates in the ocean, as they share complex features similar to the human brain. Like human beings, squids can be very curious about their environment. They have the ability to learn new skills and develop the capacity to use tools that can either help them repress their boredom and protect them from harm.

24 Spiders

Spiders are among the smallest creatures to possess a proportionately high level of  intelligence. Especially the White-Mustached Portia spiders. These spiders dwell African; Asian; and Australian forests and have demonstrated special learning skills.

23 Ants

Though they are small, they have the ability to creatively withstand calamities that would that would wipe another species. Ants are often seen coordinating in massive groups to build nests and hunt for food; and they accommodate to their environment very well. All notable points when it comes to measuring intelligence.

22 Baboons

Baboons are old world monkeys who have cognitive abilities very similar to chimpanzees and orangutans. In terms of the way they behave, one can see how these creatures resemble people. Unlike other animals, studies show that at some level baboons know how to identify stress and cope with it. They create extremely complex social systems and can think critically when confronted with difficult situations.

21 Sea Lions

Studies have shown that sea lions possess the ability to think logically and can actually deduce if a=b and b=c, then a=c.

20 Orangutans

Just chimpanzees, the intelligence of orangutans is reflected in the way they imitate human actions. They also have the unique ability to learn complicated new skills, such as sawing wood or using a hammer and nail to put things together. Orangutans have the ability to understand their surroundings in a more abstract way than other animals so they know how to acclimate to some very harsh environments.

19 Pigeons

There’s a reason why pigeons have been used numerous times throughout history on places like battle fields .  They are extremely good at Geo location and studies have shown that they have an amazing ability to remember people and places throughout the course of their life.

18 Crows

Along with pigeons, crows are among the most intelligent birds in the world. They have the ability to solve complicated problems and adapt to tough situations which can easilybe seen in the way they gather their food and collect resources.

17 Sheep

Of all the animals, sheep are believed to possess the most powerful memories with some research showing them to be better than humans in certain situations. For example, they have the ability to identify when a fellow sheep is lost in their flock.  Moreover, they exhibit a wide range of emotions and response to various things going on around them which also shows a high level of intelligence.

16 Raccoons

Known for being resourceful; raccoons are capable of forming complex social relationships and also make use of complex tools when problem solving.

15 Horses

Horses have always held a special meaning to humans, apart from the fact that they are very rideable and get us places they are also teachable, have good memories, and are able to respond to complicated commands quickly under stress.

14 Rhesus Monkeys

Known for having displayed suicidal tendencies and well planned attacks in a group; it’s safe to say that Rhesus Monkeys are extremely smart and resourceful.

13 Falcons

Extremely adept hunters falcons have always been used in the same way as pigeons, to convey messages and do reconnaissance.  Their ability to follow commands and remember territory is formidable.

12 Rats

Once could easily underestimate the mental capacity of a rat. While they can be revolting sewer dwellers that Hollywood has made them out to be, they are also quite smart. They have very good long term memories and are excellent when it comes to adapting to changing situations.

11 Owls

Even during the time of the ancient Greeks, owls were already seen as intelligent animals. While this may appear to be true due to pre conceived notions about their “wisdom” this is the “burst your bubble” list item. That’s right, they are actually not that smart compared to other birds.  Technically they shouldn’t even be on this list but how else would we shatter everything you thought you knew?

10 Cats

Those who have cats as pets know that these animals are skilled at hunting. They are agile and they possess incredible sensory ability and though their not nearly as trainable as dogs, they are extremely adept at learning new skills.

9 Squirrels

Squirrels may be small, but their brains should not underrated. Yes, we know what your thinking; every time you almost hit one with your car is because they can’t seem to figure out how to get out of your way, how can they be smart? Well, their intelligence is very focused on one thing; gathering food.  When it comes to storing provisions their minds are uniquely adapted with everything they need which includes a ridiculous memory to remember where they store it.

8 Elephants

Compared to other animals, elephants have larger brains.  Of course just because your brain is big doesn’t necessarily mean much. What matters is the proportion of body mass to brain mass but even with that said elephants are really, really smart by non human standards. These animals use their brains to create and process complex social interactions and seem to even model things such as empathy.

7 Octopus

When it comes to  group of invertebrates, octopuses are known as the most intelligent. They are highly skilled hunters who use well developed strategies when finding food. And just like most of the other animals on this list they have shown the ability to solve some very complicated problems.

6 Dogs

Although intelligence levels vary across breeds, in general they learn new skills easily and are quick to respond to human training.  Most breeds of dogs like Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies and Poodles aver very curious about their environment and can even notice a change in the smallest detail. Is what appears to be their high emotional intelligence however, that has probably led them to be man’s best friend.

5 Whales

Known for their massive size but not often their massive intellect whales often use complex sounds to communicate with each other and coordinate their activities among the group very effectively.  They are also formidable problem solvers.

4 Parrots

Although their famous ability to talk is pure mimicry as most people know parrots have excellent memories and like many others on this list are capable of solving relatively complex problems.

3 Bottlenose Dolphins

When it comes to  body mass to brain ratio, it is a scientific fact that Bottlenose dolphins have among the largest brains in the animal kingdom. Characterized by their advanced communication skills, they have also been considered to be self aware with the ability to recognize themselves in a mirror.

2 Pigs

According to research, a middle aged pig can be as smart as a three year old human being and they know how to adapt to complex environmental situations because they have the ability to learn new skills easily.

1 Chimpanzees

Aside from the fact that chimpanzees look like humans, these animals also have the capacity in some ways to think like humans. They can manipulate their environment and utilize tools in order to help the community accomplish certain tasks.  By and large they are often considered to be the smartest primate and therefore one of the smartest animals in the world.


Author's page : https://www.seeker.com/10-surprising-facts-about-animal-intelligence-1768440130.html

        10 Surprising Facts About Animal Intelligence

From an elephant that speaks Korean to goldfish that distinguish Bach from Stravinsky, the animal kingdom is full of non-human brainiacs.
By Jen Viegas
April 2, 2014

Crows continue to demonstrate that they are very brainy birds. In fact, their intelligence can rival that of 7-year-olds. For example, a recent study published in PLoS ONE reported that crows completed an "Aesop's fable paradigm" task, which required crows to drop stones into water to rise the water level so the hungry birds could obtain an out-of-reach reward.

"Understanding causal regularities in the world is a key feature of human cognition," lead author Sarah Jelbert, a researcher at Auckland University, and her team point out.

Based on their findings then, crows share a sophisticated awareness of cause (not to mention caws) and effect possibilities that are on par with human skills.

Honeybees can count, categorize similar objects like dogs or human faces, understand "same" and "different," and differentiate between shapes that are symmetrical and asymmetrical.

Honeybees help to prove that "animals with bigger brains are not necessarily more intelligent," according to Lars Chittka, a professor of sensory and behavioral ecology at Queen Mary's Research Center.

Dogs understand arithmetic, according to Stanley Coren of the University of British Colombia's Department of Psychology.

Studies show, for example, that dogs notice errors in simple computations, such as 1+1=3. The average dog, Coren said, can learn 165 words.

"Super dogs," meaning those in the top 20 percent of canine intelligence, can learn at least 250 words and signals. Intelligence, at least as measured by humans, varies per breed, with border collies tending to be the brightest.

Fish can distinguish between larger and smaller quantities, with an additional ability to "count" up to three, according to research on tropical angelfish. Fish, as well as dogs, probably have even more advanced mathematical ability, scientists suspect, but we need more methods to better study these animals.

Angelo Bisazza, a professor in the Comparative Psychology Research Group at the University of Padova, told Discovery News that such research is "slowly unraveling the cognitive abilities of fish and, as for the case of numerical abilities, they often suggest that the capabilities of these creatures are not so dissimilar from those of the organisms (monkeys, rodents and pigeons) that have traditionally been employed for these studies."

Cockatoos have been nicknamed "animal master-burglars" because they can pick almost any lock.

In a University of Vienna study, an adult male cockatoo named "Pipin" retrieved a nut after picking a lock that required him to: remove a pin, then a screw, then a bolt, then turn a wheel 90 degrees and then shift a latch sideways.

The task, which could stump many people, took Pipin -- unassisted -- less than two hours to figure out.

An Asian elephant male named Koshik can imitate human speech, speaking words in Korean that others who know the language can understand, a Current Biology study determined.

The elephant's vocabulary at present consists of at least five words: annyong (hello), anja (sit down), aniya (no), nuo (lie down), and choah (good). Given that elephants have a trunk instead of lips, it's no small feat that Koshik can speak Korean.

"Some of the words were commands that Koshik learned to perform, such as 'lie down' and 'sit down,' or were given as feedback, and we have every reason to believe he understands the meaning of these words," co-author Tecumseh Fitch, a professor of cognitive biology at the University of Vienna, told Discovery News.

Goldfish not only listen to music, but they also can distinguish one composer from another.

A study, published in the journal Behavioral Processes, involved playing two pieces of classical music near goldfish in a tank. The pieces were "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach and "The Rite of Spring" by Igor Stravinsky.

The goldfish had no trouble distinguishing the two composers. While fish, and most other animals, prefer silence to music, the research proves that goldfish can detect complex properties of sounds, such as pitch and timbre.

Snakes do not just kill on instinct; they monitor the condition of their victims right until the very end, a Biology Letters study found.

The tightness and duration of a constricting snake's death squeeze are timed to perfection, matching the heartbeat and weakening state of the snake's unlucky prey. It takes smarts to do this, with scientists now wondering what other brainy feats snakes might be capable of achieving.

Human friends may come and go, but a horse could be one of your most loyal, long-term buddies if you treat it right.

Horses possess "excellent memories," Carol Sankey of the University of Rennes told Discovery News. She added that "horses are able to learn and memorize human words," and can hear the human voice better than even dogs can, due to their particular range of hearing.

When human measures for intelligence are applied to other species, dolphins are second only to Homo sapiens in brainpower, according to Lori Marino, a senior lecturer in neuroscience and behavioral biology at Emory University.

"If we use relative brain size as a metric of 'intelligence' then one would have to conclude that dolphins are second in intelligence to modern humans," Marino, who performed several MRI scans on dolphin brains, told Discovery News.

It should then come as no surprise that a dolphin recently emitted the whistle for the word "sargassum," referring to a type of seaweed commonly found in the dolphin's marine environment.

In the future, high-tech devices might allow people and dolphins to hold conversations with each other. Given how much damage humans have done to the environment and to other species, we might get quite an earful.



Source : http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2014/04/22/this-is-how-you-study-the-evolution-of-animal-intelligence/
This is How You Study The Evolution of Animal Intelligence (National Geographic)
Posted Tue, 04/22/2014

There are many scientists who study the mental abilities of animals. As intelligent animals ourselves, we’re keen to learn whether other species share our skills, and how our vaunted smarts evolved. We see study after study about whether chimpanzees care about fairness, whether pigeons outsmart humans at a classic maths problem, whether cuttlefish can remember where, what and when, or whether (and how) parrots and crows use tools.

But animals are hard to work with. You need to design tests that objectively assess their mental skills without raising the spectre of anthropomorphism, and you need to carefully train them to perform those tests. These difficulties mean that researchers mostly resort to small experiments with just one species, often with their own bespoke tasks. This makes it very hard to compare species or pool the results of separate studies. If a lemur behaves differently to a monkey in separate experiments, is it because of some genuine biological difference, or some quirk of the respective studies?

These problems mean that the study of animal intelligence is rich but piecemeal. Each study adds a new piece to the jigsaw, but is everyone even solving the same puzzle?

Evan MacLean, Brian Hare, and Charles Nunn from Duke University have had enough. They led a international team of 58 scientists from 25 institutes in studying the evolution of one mental skill—self-control—in 567 animals from 36 species.

Chimpanzees, gorillas, baboons, marmosets, lemurs, squirrels, dogs, elephants, pigeons, parrots and more tried their hands (or trunks or beaks or snouts) at the same two tasks. “It was literally a mouse-to-elephant study,” says MacLean, “or at least a Mongolian-gerbil-to-elephant study.”

“I think it’s really showing the future of the field of cognition,” says Karin Isler from the Universtiy of Zurich. “Instead of just giving glimpses and suggestions, and sometimes contradicting evidence, one can find convincing explanations for the evolution of cognitive abilities.”

The team focused on self-control—the ability to stop doing that, put that down, eat that later. Animals exercise it when they stop themselves from mating in the presence of a dominant peer, when they forgo an existing source of food in favour of foraging somewhere new, or when they share resources with their fellows. In humans, a child’s degree of self-control correlates with their health, wealth, and mental state as adults. It’s important.

It’s also easy to measure. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget did it in the 1950s when he repeatedly put a toy under a box in front of some infants, and then moved it to a second box. He found that babies under 10 months of age would keep on searching under Box A, despite what they had seen. They couldn’t resist their old habit to do something flexible and different; that ability only kicks in around our first birthday. MacLean, Hare and Nunn’s team gave this “A-not-B” test to their animals, using food rather than a toy.

They also tried a second task, where animals had to reach round the side of an opaque cylinder to get at food within. The team then swapped the opaque cylinder for a transparent one. Now, the animals had to hold back their natural instinct to reach directly for the food (which would have knocked the cylinder over), and go around as before.

The team tested all their animals on one or both tasks, and compared their performance to traits like brain size or group size. They found a few surprises. For example, the animals’ scores correlated with the absolute but not relative sizes of their brains. In other words, it didn’t matter whether the animals’ brains were big for their size, but whether they were big, full-stop.

“That’s funny because brain size and body size scale predictably. Big animals have big brains,” says MacLean. As such, many scientists believed that relative brain size mattered more. There’s even a measure called the encephalization quotient (EQ) that estimates intelligence by comparing an animal’s brain to that of a typical creature of the same size. And yet, for self-control at least, it’s absolute size that’s important. That was true whether they looked at all their 36 species, or just at the primates.

“That makes sense,” says Richard Byrne at the University of St Andrews. “If the brain is, to some extent, an on-board computer, it will be the number of components that determine its power [rather than] the size of the carrying case or body.”

The team also tested two leading explanations for the evolution of primate intelligence. One idea says that our smarts evolved so we could keep track of the relationships within our complex social groups. Indeed, you can make a decent guess about the size of community that a primate lives in by measuring the size of its skull. But the team found no link between group size and performance in their tasks. “That surprised us,” says MacLean. “It’s such a popular hypothesis but we found no evidence for it.”

Instead, the team found more support for a second idea: that primate intelligence was driven by the need to keep track of a wide range of food like fruit, which vary by place and season. They showed that the variety in the animals’ diets (but not the proportion of fruit) was indeed linked to self-control. Together, these two factors—absolute brain size and dietary breadth—explained around 82 percent of the variations in the primates’ scores.

“The nice thing about the tasks is that, because of their simplicity, they are very unlikely to depend a lot on species-specific aptitudes unrelated to cognition or to prior experience,” says Byrne. “I’d trust the results.”

But Robin Dunbar from the University of Oxford felt that the team’s conclusions are “misguided and naive” because their tasks weren’t a good measure of self-control, at least in any sense that matters in an animal’s social life. Instead they were “straight ecological or foraging tasks and nothing more, so it’s not awfully surprising that it correlates with diet,” he says.

Brain-scanning studies in humans and monkeys have also found links between the size of specific brain regions, size of social groups, and social skills. “It seems bizarre to be running an analysis against measures of total brain size,” says Dunbar.

Of course, this study just looked at one aspect of animal psychology, among many. The team found that the animals’ scores on the self-control tests did correlate with reports of other skills, like innovation, tool use, deception, and social learning. But MacLean suspects that if other teams focused on these skills, they would find different results. Group size may become more important if researchers focused on tasks that looked at social learning—the ability to imitate and learn from others. Alternatively, diet may again win out if scientists looked at memory skills.

This new study doesn’t settle the debates. It just points to a way forward. Each of the scientists in the team could easily have published their own papers using the collected data, but they decided to combine their efforts into one publication. “We thought it would be most powerful if it came out together,” says MacLean. “There’s never been a data set this size. We’re certainly hoping that it’s a game-changer in the way we do comparative psychology.”

And even Dunbar says, “It’s good to see comparative studies of this kind being done at last, and it’s very worthy that they have done the same task on many species.”

References : MacLean, Hare, Nunn, Addessi, Amici, Anderson, Aureli, Baker, Bania, Barnard, Boogert, Brannon, Bray, Bray, Brent, Burkart, Call, Cantlon, Cheke, Clayton, Delgado, DiVincenti, Fujita, Herrmann, Hiramatsu, Jacobs, Jordan, Laude, Leimgruber, Messer, Moura, Ostojic, Picard, Platt, Plotnik, Range, Reader, Reddy, Sandel, Santos, Schumann, Seed, Sewall, Shaw, Slocombe, Su, Takimoto, Tan, Tao, van Schaik, Viranyi, Visalberghi, Wade, Watanabe, Widness, Young, Zentall & Zhao. 2014. The evolution of self-control. PNAS http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1323533111



Source : https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/open-gently/201302/the-intelligence-animals
The Intelligence of Animals

The social needs and sensitivity of animals are a window into human potential.
Posted Feb 24, 2013

 Why does it make me so happy to think that other animals are intelligent and social like human beings? It's especially nice when they aren't known for having wars or some other less impressive human traits.

I know I'm hoping that humans will become less tolerant of cruelty over time--to both humans and other animals. We already have. In medieval Europe, audiences enjoyed watching cats flung into a fire; now we give substantial medical care to aging pets.

Today, we argue over whether humans should be more important than animals. Should we all be vegetarians? Is animal research to help cure human diseases is justified? What do you make of obsessive or reclusive cat-lovers who obviously prefer their pets to other people? 

To my mind, these questions are distraction from a bigger picture. I believe that when we appreciate animals we appreciate the better side of human beings.

The latest is that bottlenose dolphins may call each other by name! If so, they'd be the only animals other than humans to do so.

 Earlier research found that each dolphin has a unique whistle that can be heard more than 12 miles away. Other dolphins recognize the whistle.

 The most recent discovery, by Stephanie King, a research fellow at University of St. Andrews: when separated, a dolphin may call out another dolphin's signature whistle, and she believes that they do so in order to get back together.

 Studying wild dolphins around Sarasota Bay in Florida from 1984 to 2009 and four adult males who live in an aquarium, her team observed mothers apparently "calling" their calves and male dolphin “buddies” calling each other. (Songbirds may copy each other songs, but that's been interpreted as competition, not social bonding).

 Dolphins’ sounds, which include clicks and squawks, may have a kind of grammar and syntax. Lori Marino, an evolutionary neurobiologist at Emory University, says that they process information and make decisions quickly and and they show altruism towards other dolphins.

It's well-known that pets make humans happier and healthier. Stroking a pet can lower your heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.Even watching fish swim is good for you.

When an earthquake devastated the Japanese city of Kobe in January 1995, and thousands had to be housed in public buildings, officials bent the usual rules against animals and let people bring their pets. "It was an eye-opening experience for everyone," Dr Gen Kato, president of the Japanese Animal Hospital Association told Readers Digest. "People who had pets were clearly more happy and coped better with the disaster."

Research has shown the long-term benefits of owning a cat include protection for your heart. Over the 20 years of one study, people who never owned a cat were 40% more likely to die of a heart attack than those who had. Another study showed that dog owners had a significantly better survival rate one year after a heart attack. Overall, pet owners have a lower risk of dying from any cardiac disease, including heart failure.

And animals can be more tuned-in than a human friend. About one in three dogs living with a diabetic can smell the onset of a drop in blood sugar and alert their owners to eat a snack to avoid an attack.

Trained dogs can sense when someone with Parkinson's is "freezing" and touch the foot to let the person keep walking.

Dogs can also predict epileptic seizures, apparently by detecting subtle changes in their owners. Andrew Edney, a British veterinarian, studied 37 pet dogs that reacted to their owners' impending fits. Some became anxious or restless; others nuzzled their owners, stood guard over them or ran to fetch people.

A Briton, John Stoddart, who is epileptic and asthmatic, lived in fear that he would have a seizure and choke on his tongue, .But now his Jack Russell terrier Bruno acts as an alarm system: Bruno will jump up at yap in a particular way that warns Stoddart to lie down. "I've lost count of how often he has saved me from serious injury or worse," Stoddart says.

Trained dogs are even able to retrieve a phone for a 911 call. (canineassistants.org)

Trained dogs now accompany autistic children to school, helping to cut their anxiety and give them ways to interact with other kids (autismservicedogsofamerica.com)

The Mexican hairless, or xoloitzcuintli, is comforting people with fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain. Patients feel better simply by holding the warm body or lying next to it. (pawsforcomfort.com)

But having pets isn't just for people with special needs. There's a good reason the classic family had a dog and maybe a cat.  Pets can help children become more compassionate. Small in stature themselves, children identify with stuffed animals, other kids, pets, and underdogs. Their natural empathy must compete with other aspects of childhood--the limited impulse control that makes them pull the cat's tail and their belief that their needs absolutely must come first. 

Teach a small child how to touch a baby (or an animal) gently and how to speak in a kind patient voice.  Make it unacceptable to be mean to animals and expect children to help with chores. Two-year-olds can scoop dry cat food out of a bag.

And I hope your two-year-old will grow old in a world where some of today's cruelties to both humans and animals have become unthinkable. 



Source : http://www.care2.com/causes/humans-have-been-underestimating-animal-intelligence-basically-forever.html
Humans Have Been Underestimating Animal Intelligence Basically Forever
By: Susan Bird
December 12, 2013

We humans have lived our lives for centuries secure in the notion that we’re the smartest creatures on the planet. We can do things no other animal can. We can reason. We’re number one — top of the ladder. Of course we’re the best and the brightest. Right?

Hold on there, Einstein. It turns out we’ve been thinking way too much of ourselves all these years and have given incredibly short shrift to the intelligence of the animals we share the Earth with.

Experts with Australia’s University of Adelaide say that animals exhibit myriad forms of intelligence that are every bit as impressive as ours.

“For millennia, all kinds of authorities — from religion to eminent scholars — have been repeating the same idea ad nauseam, that humans are exceptional by virtue that they are the smartest in the animal kingdom,” said Dr. Arthur Saniotis, Visiting Research Fellow with the University of Adelaide’s School of Medical Sciences.

“However, science tells us that animals can have cognitive faculties that are superior to human beings,” he said.

Religious Views and the Mastery of Agriculture Made Humans a Little Cocky

Humans began to think of themselves as being the most intelligent and accomplished species more than 10,000 years ago, according to Dr. Saniotis. As organized religion came into its own, it naturally supported the human-centric view that we were obviously the preeminent species on Earth.

With the advent of the Agricultural Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, we learned to domesticate animals and grow crops to feed ourselves. Because we could bend animals and plants to our will, we decided we were much smarter than any other creature. Reality, however, paints a very different picture.

“The fact that [animals] may not understand us, while we do not understand them, does not mean our ‘intelligences’ are at different levels, they are just of different kinds,” said Professor Maciej Henneberg. “When a foreigner tries to communicate with us using an imperfect, broken version of our language, our impression is that they are not very intelligent. But the reality is quite different.”

According to Prof. Henneberg, humans are so focused on language and technology, we’re completely missing the fact that there are other equally important types of intelligence. Among them, he says are types at which that animals excel — for example, kinaesthetic and social intelligence.

Animal Intelligence Enables Them Do Amazing Things We Never Could

Kinaesthetic intelligence is the ability to manipulate objects and employ physical skills. Among humans, this type of intelligence is best displayed by dancers, athletes, performers and surgeons. Animals possess this type of intelligence and demonstrate it in astounding ways. Examples include animals such as apes, otters and even birds that learn how to use tools like rocks to break open food sources.

Social intelligence involves processing information and applying it in a social context. Animals can do this constantly in ways that may surprise you. For example, research shows that when lemurs live in a larger group rather than a smaller one, they demonstrate more social tact. They don’t steal food from others in the larger group context, though they might in a smaller unit. They understand which behavior is acceptable in which context, and they abide by those rules.

“Some mammals, like gibbons, can produce a large number of varied sounds — over 20 different sounds with clearly different meanings that allow these arboreal primates to communicate across tropical forest canopy. The fact that they do not build houses is irrelevant to the gibbons,” Prof. Henneberg said.

In addition, the messages animals leave for others to smell are likely much more nuanced that we realize.

“Many quadrupeds leave complex olfactory marks in their environment, and some, like koalas, have special pectoral glands for scent marking,” Henneberg added. ”Humans, with their limited sense of smell, can’t even gauge the complexity of messages contained in olfactory markings, which may be as rich in information as the visual world.”

Time to Give Respect Where it‘s Due

Think about that. Your dog often marks his territory outside. What’s he saying to all those other neighborhood dogs that will be passing by? It’s likely a whole lot deeper than “Hi, I’m Spot. This is my tree.”

In fact, your dog or cat probably has you wrapped around its little finger, figuratively speaking. As Dr. Henneberg notes, our pets “can even communicate to us their demands and make us do things they want. The animal world is much more complex than we give it credit for.”

It’s time to give animals their due. They may not speak our language, travel in vehicles, read books or use computers, but so what? They have awesome talents of their own that we can never hope to achieve.

Perhaps a bit more mutual respect between us and our animal friends is in order. Perhaps it’s time to stop eating them, wearing them and making them perform for our amusement.

Let’s acknowledge that we share this world with creatures both diverse and intelligent, and try harder to live in harmony with them all.


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