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World's Smartest Animals

For better and worse, humans have undoubtedly taken over planet Earth. Our use of tools and knack for self-awareness has given us an edge over the rest of the animal kingdom, to the point where many other species are under threat as the result of our existence. While our ability to learn, be creative, and solve problems is impressive and unsurpassed, a number of other species also show remarkable signs of intelligence. Let's take a look at the world's smartest animals and see how their intelligence differs from ours.

Chimpanzees are the closest to humans out of all other animals, with at least 98 percent of their genome identical to our own. Many of their skills and behaviours are similar to ours, such as using tools, forming organised groups for different tasks, and engaging in violence. Chimps even perform well in tasks that many people identify as human, such as showing empathy, displaying altruism, and showing signs of self-awareness. Gorillas and orangutans also share a number of behaviours with humans, with these four animals all part of the same 13 million year old hominidae family.

Some of the smartest animals in the world can be found where we live, either in the farmyard or inside our own homes. Dogs and cats are well known for their smarts, with border collies sometimes called the Einsteins of the canine world. Despite their preference for rolling around in the mud, pigs are also very smart, with some studies putting them in the same league as dogs or chimps when it comes to intelligence. According to a study published in the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, "pigs share a number of cognitive capacities with other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and even humans."

Human intelligence is not the only yardstick, however, with a number of other animals showing incredibly complex behaviour patterns which are not easily translated or even understood. Dolphins are one obvious example, with their distinctive patterns of whistles and clicks forming an advanced method of communication which we're only beginning to understand. According to researchers from the Karadag Nature Reserve in Crimea, dolphins have a “highly developed spoken language” which closely resembles the call and response cycles found in human communication. Unfortunately for us, much of their speech lies beyond the time and frequency characteristics of our limited human hearing.

In another example that's even more alien, cephalopods such as octopi, squids, and cuttlefish are known to have large and complex brains with folded lobes and distinct regions for visual and tactile processing. Octopi in particular are known to be incredibly smart in ways that humans can't even come close to replicating. Not only can they open jars and defend themselves with rocks, they can also make tools out of coconuts, mimic other creatures, and change their intricate colour patterns instantly to match their background. The scintillating moving displays shown by cephalopods may be a highly intelligent method of communication, and much like dolphins, we have absolutely no idea what's being said and how much intelligence is being displayed.

Image source: Olena Brodetska/Shutterstock


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