We all know that learning is part of human nature.
But have you thought about animal intelligence and their levels of cognition?
It goes much further than teaching them tricks, as you’ll see in today’s post!
Here are amazing facts about five animals and how they learn.
Animal Intelligence and Learning
A dolphin's ability to learn is comparable to that of a 3-year-old toddler. Signs of higher intelligence are related to self-awareness. When dolphins look in a mirror, they can recognize themselves and know that they are the ones in the mirror — this is a sign of the development of abstract thinking.
The way bottlenose dolphins communicate with each other is well-known to be extensive and complex. Dolphins rely on sound to communicate as sound travels five times faster in the water as compared to air. Each bottlenose dolphin is believed by scientists to develop a unique high-pitched whistle. This distinct whistle is used when dolphins are in distress, such as when a young dolphin and its mother are separated.
And while dolphins generally do not communicate visually, they have superb eyesight both above and below water.
Guess which animal has the biggest brain size among land mammals?
Elephants not only have the largest brain of land mammals. Their temporal lobe is also the biggest relative to the size of the rest of the body. The temporal lobe is the area of the brain that governs language, cognition, communication, and spatial memory. This is what contributes to the powerful memories of elephants.
Elephant ecologist Stephen Blake says that elephants need good memories for their surroundings as well as their social lives.
A tropical rainforest is complicated terrain. An elephant needs to know where to forage over an area of a thousand square miles. And because an elephant might know 500 plus elephants, their good memories help with maintaining their social connections.
The adult human brain weighs about 3 pounds. An elephant’s brain can weigh up to 11 pounds, which is larger than any other land animal.
Chimpanzees are our closest animal cousins, who share about 99% of the same DNA as human beings.
Chimps and other apes are able to earn words and utilize tools and objects. Some have been observed to mourn the deaths of their family members or friends.
In the 1960s, Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees that used a twig to dig for ants. It was the first time wild chimps were documented using tools.
Since this discovery, scientists have discovered that chimps are able to use sign language. Chimps are highly skilled in social cognition, which includes making sounds or gestures to grab a person's attention. They have even beat college students in basic memory tests!
According to animal psychologists, dogs are as intelligent as the average two-year-old child.
Studies have found that dogs can understand about 165 words and signals. The research studies showed that the average dog is a lot more intelligent than dogs are usually thought to be.
According to Professor Marc Bekoff, an ecologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, domestic animals are incredibly smart and emotional. They are distinct from their wild relatives because of many decades and centuries of domestication and close contact with humans.
Researchers also compiled a list of the varying levels of intelligence of different dog breeds through gathering information from obedience classes. If you have a border collie or retriever, you probably already know that they’re among the most intelligent of dog breeds.
Cats have 300 million neurons compared to dogs which have 160 million neurons. The cerebral cortex governs rational thought and problem solving.
If you own a cat, you’re no doubt familiar with their different meow sounds and what they mean. There are dozens of meows which differ based on pitch and volume. Meows range from a soft, friendly “hello” to drawn out yowls demanding for food, play, or attention.
Like humans, cats learn through doing and observation. Cats are able to learn through watching humans open doors. So if they see you opening a door, they do remember how it’s done.
Research shows that a cat’s memories can last ten or more years. Cats associate memories of places or events with the feelings they experienced. They recall stressful or fearful events (like going to the vet) and positive experiences too (like when you play with and cuddle with your cat).
Will we ever know the true extent of knowledge and animal intelligence? Let’s think about it the next time we see an animal doing something strange or indecipherable. They may be intelligent in ways human standards aren’t yet able to comprehend.
Dolphins.org – Communication
EarthSky – Elephant Memories
Slate.com – Elephants
Purina – Cat Behavior