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Smart species

Smart species
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We humans take a lot of pride in our brains and our supposed ‘dominance’ over the other creatures on Earth. But the animal kingdom is full of brainy creatures who would surely blow even the smartest humans away with their intelligence and skills if we gave them the chance. Case in point: think dancing, cheating and sleight-of-hand are human inventions, exclusive to Homo sapiens? Think again. Get ready to marvel at some of the smartest animals on the planet – some of which will surprise you!

Dogs are as smart as toddlers

Dogs are as smart as toddlers
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There’s a reason dogs are man’s best friend. Not only are they adorable, they’re also very smart. They have emotions, they learn tricks, they recognise their owners, they can sense others’ feelings – and that’s not even all of the clever things dogs can do. According to Live Science, they’re as smart as a two-year-old child. “The finding is based on a language development test, revealing average dogs can learn 165 words (similar to a two-year-old child), including signals and gestures, and dogs in the top 20% in intelligence can learn 250 words,” says the Live Science article. “While dogs ranked with two year olds in language, they would trump a three- or four-year-old in basic arithmetic, [Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia] found. In terms of social smarts, our drooling furballs fare even better.”

OK, we know dogs are smart, so make sure you know how to train your puppy.

African Greys are as smart as a three-year-old

African Greys are as smart as a three-year-old
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Besides being able to mimic humans, parrots can solve puzzles based on logical reasoning. According to Live Science, these parrots are as smart as a three-year-old child. “Parrots can draw conclusions about where to find a food reward not only from clues as to its location, but also from the absence of clues – an ability previously only seen in humans and other apes. “It suggests that Grey parrots have some understanding of causality and that they can use this to reason about the world,” study scientist Christian Schloegl, a researcher at the University of Vienna, told Live Science.”

Chimpanzees are very similar to humans

Chimpanzees are very similar to humans
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Unsurprisingly, chimpanzees are one of the most intelligent animals on this planet – next to humans. Similar to how humans inherit their intelligence from their mothers, a chimpanzee also greatly relies on its genes for intelligence. “They can learn words, play with objects, and mourn the deaths of their friends,” says National Geographic. Genes determine about half of the variability in chimp intelligence, while environmental factors determine the other half, according to primatologist William Hopkins, of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta. Chimps also have their own way of making life a little easier. “Chimps are known to make and use tools for simple tasks like opening fruit and nuts. In fact, studies have shown some of these primates to fashion spears to hunt smaller prey and long branches to dig for termites,” according to health and wellness expert Caleb Backe.

Now discover 30 of the rarest animals on Earth.

Chickens know shapes and colours

Chickens know shapes and colours
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Although chickens can sometimes have an unintelligent rap, they are actually very smart. In fact, they can even differentiate certain shapes and colours. According to Melissa Caughey, author of How to Speak Chicken and A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens, in one study, chickens were clicker trained to peck at one of four different shapes, such as a circle, square, triangle and rectangle. They would always pick the right shape out of the grouping, regardless of how the shapes were arranged. “When their particular shape was removed, the chickens looked quizzically for it and wouldn’t peck at the other shapes. When the correct shape was reintroduced, they pecked at it as taught.”

Elephants don’t need Facebook

Elephants don’t need Facebook
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In case you’ve forgotten, elephants have incredible memories. They’re able to recall specific routes to watering holes over incredible stretches of terrain and over the span of many years – and they never forget a friend, either. In 1999, an elephant named Shirley arrived at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Immediately, a resident elephant named Jenny became animated and playful. It wasn’t love at first sight; Jenny remembered Shirley from when they performed briefly in a circus together – 22 years earlier.

See if your memory is as good as an elephant’s with these Incredible animal facts part 1, part 2 and part 3.

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Bees hold dance-offs

Bees hold dance-offs
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Honeybees have evolved what we call ‘swarm intelligence’, with up to 50,000 workers in a single colony coming together to make democratic decisions. When a hive gets too crowded in springtime, colonies deploy scouts to look for a new home. If any scouts disagree on where the colony should build its next hive, they argue their case the civilised way: through a dance-off. Each scout performs a ‘waggle dance’ for other scouts in an attempt to convince them of their location’s merit; the more enthusiastic the dance, the happier the scout was with her location. The remainder of the colony votes with their bodies, flying to the spot they prefer and joining in the dance until one potential hive reigns #1 bee disco of the neighbourhood.

Dolphins cheat

Dolphins cheat
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Dolphins are often cited as the second smartest animals on Earth due to their relatively high brain-to-body size ratio, the capacity to show emotion and impressive mimicry of the dumb apes who research them. Now, findings from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi suggest dolphins may also be the second-sneakiest animals on Earth. When dolphins at the Institute were trained to pick up litter in their tanks and exchange them with trainers for fish, one dolphin named Kelly discovered a way to cheat the system. By hiding scraps of litter under a rock in her tank, Kelly discretely tore single sheets of discarded paper into multiple pieces, then turned them in one at a time to maximise her fishy reward. Kelly’s clever deception, it seems, was no accident – researchers say she did it all on purpose.

Octopus are master escape artists

Octopus are master escape artists
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True prison-breakers of the sea, these tentacled creatures have proven time and again their talents for popping lids off screw-top jars, compressing their bulky bodies through slit-small holes, and climbing impossibly out of aquarium tanks to their freedom. Otto, a German aquarium octopus, was even known to throw rocks at the glass and spray water at overhead lamps to short-circuit the annoyingly bright lights (on more than one occasion). Add to their rap sheet the innovation of assembling shelters from coconut shells, and there’s no denying cephalopods will one day be our overlords.

Now read 15 of the funniest animal stories from 2020.

Squirrels use sleight of hand

Squirrels use sleight of hand
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If you’ve ever second-guessed yourself while trying to remember an online account password, know that you have stooped to sub-squirrel intelligence. According to a Princeton University study, grey squirrels are capable of remembering where thousands of nuts are buried – for months at a time. They’ll even use subterfuge to trick would-be nut takers; in a 2010 study, squirrels who knew they were being watched dug fake caches for their nuts, making a show of digging holes and patting them over with dirt while hiding their precious nuts under their armpits or in their mouth until they could find a more suitable hiding spot elsewhere.

Squirrels may be clever, but these 10 animals changed history.

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