Wonderful intelligence!


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Those of you who have followed InterestEng. from the beginning will remember our young Dr.Surprise—a boy from Ukraine who loved to surprise us with science stories about our solar system. Dr.Surprise is now grown, married, and studying bio-engineering at the “Harvard of Ukraine” in Kiev! He took time recently to share once again with us one of his wonderful science stories.  Thank you, Andrei!

SOONER or later every human being asks the interesting question: What is the smartest animal in the world?  Children who are fond of nature and thirsty for knowledge often discover that animals are smart at an early age. The discovery happens faster with children who have close relations to animals through their pets.  

Since humanity prefers to separate itself from the animal kingdom (and has been doing that for thousands of years!) a lot of different points of view on this particular question have formed. Today, both theoretical and experimental science can give you all the information you could possibly want. There are, for example, tests assessing the IQ (intelligence quotient) and the EQ (empathy quotient) of different living creatures. Depending on the methods of assessment used, the place of the smartest animal in the world is shared by different species. In fact, today there is a long list of animals who compete to be the smartest.

Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives. We share 98.8 percent of our DNA with them. It has been proven, for example, that chimpanzees have social interactions and consciously use stones and branches as tools. And, in a short-term memory tests (using number patterns) they have even proven to be superior to humans. 

In other studies, it has been discovered that the brain of some birds is more powerful, relative to size, in comparison with the human brain. In 1 study, researchers gave crows and humans the same puzzle: A cookie was floated on the top of water in a glass cylinder. The cylinder was too narrow for a bird or a child to reach in and grab the cookie. The children tested couldn’t figure out a way to get the cookie.  But the crows dropped small stones into the cylinder to eventually raise the water to the point where the birds could snatch the cookie. 

It is a fact that crows like to play games and have high social skills. Crows love to compete in doing tricks while flying. But the main thing that shows their intelligence is that they can make and use tools.  A very recent research project proved that crows can share and pass to their young knowledge and skills. 

Thinking of the smartest animal you might never think about insects. But it turns out that bees can do much more than pollinate flowers. Recent studies show that bees can not only count from 1 to 4 but they know what “0” (zero) means. It may not sound impressive at first, but it is a really rare skill because there are actually four levels of understanding what zero means and bees understand it the same way we do. They have a very complicated language which enables them to understand each other in a very efficient way. They are also social creatures.  It has been thought that the “Queen Bee” is the most special of all but, actually, she is more like a slave!  She lays about 500 eggs every day!

The brain of dolphins is a bit bigger then ours and is a bit more complicated. Their social interactions, for example, are very complicated. They can make friends, they can love things, they give each other names and even nicknames. When hunting they each have separate roles and do everything with perfect timing and understanding of their partners. They don’t use their eyesight under water as much as they use echolocation (echo-location: the location of objects by reflected sound). And, in fact, they use it for communication too. 

Dolphins can identify themselves in a mirror the very first time they are shown a mirror. And, as well as crows, dolphins are very fond of games. The one they like the most is making air rings under water and doing tricks with them. Dolphins are also easy to train, which is why dolphinariums are so popular and amusing. 

But, in the end, I still believe that the smartest animal on earth is Homo Sapiens. And it will be the same for a very long time if we use our intelligence the right way. —Andrei

Want more?  Here’s a little bonus video for you as well!

 ©preInterestEng. July 2013  §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com