Amplified Animal Aptitude
Ordinary animals in fiction have a significantly increased intelligence
. Not necessarily the Talking Animals
. Not the Funny Animals
. Just the wild and domestic animals encountered in stories where humans are the main characters. Such animals can frequently clearly understand everything humans say, understand human emotions, read, figure out how to solve problems on their own, and so forth. This is also true for cases in which the animals can talk to each other
[so the audience can hear them] but are common animals in the eyes of any humans in the film.
Beyond that, they will, if they belong to a human, also circumvent their natural instincts in order to aid or protect their humans.
See also Animal Talk
, Friend to All Living Things
, Timmy in a Well
, and Most Writers Are Human
. See Uplifted Animal
, for when it's deliberately done in-universe. Not to be confused with Mysterious Animal Senses
. Not to be confused with Tropey the Wonder Dog
, which is about metaphorical dogs.
There is some Truth in Television
. Parrots are intelligent enough to ask for their favourite foods. Parrots appearing in fiction vary from the "polly wanna cracker" level of intelligence, to being smart enough to carry on a full conversation
. A certain African Grey parrot, Alex, was trained by Dr. Irene Pepperberg at Brandeis University to count up to six, correctly identify the type, color, material and shape of objects, and was showing a basic grasp of abstract concepts like "same" and "different" by the time he died.
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- Cowboy Bebop: One could think Bebop's crew's dog Ein is an example, but he really is an Uplifted Animal. However, this trope is played straight in the episode Mushroom Samba (Trope Namer of Mushroom Samba) with a cow whom Ein thanks (getting a "you're welcome" in return).
- Osamu Tezuka runs on this trope: Kimba the White Lion is a prime example, though many of his works, like Phoenix and Black Jack, feature extraordinarily intelligent animals whose sapience is never explained or questioned. One Black Jack story revolves around a bird who collects money to pay a boy's medical bills. No, really. But it's not smart enough to realize when the debt's been completely paid off.
- The Gorilla from Cromartie High School shows questionable signs of intelligence. It is implied that he can use a computer and he is able to make his own sushi. The students at Cromartie even go as far as to say that the Gorilla is smarter than them.
- Stratos 4 has Alice, an old cat who is the pet of Rin and Ran Mikuriya. Alice, who is also nicknamed "Admiral," definitely shows a comprehension of what's going on (especially as shown in her occasional captioned cat-noises), including watching the news, displaying emotion rather clearly, and trying to smuggle herself or stow away on a plane in order to fly to the skies herself (though it's a Running Gag that she keeps on being found and removed from said planes). She even has an encounter with several other cats that display a similar level of intelligent thought, including a kitten whom she adopts.
- Despite the difficulty they have learning to say more than their own species name, most Pokemon in the anime appear to understand human speech. Even a Pokemon that hasn't even been caught yet can recognize when one of their attacks are called. Team Rocket's Meowth gained the ability to talk but lost the ability to learn the signature move Pay Day. This may not sound bad, but Pay Day literally makes money. It's mentioned that he actually lost the ability to learn any new move ("I used up all my smarts learning to talk."), and doing so before he learned Pay Day was just an unfortunate lack of good timing.
- The original Dirty Pair series had "Algernon", a mouse with enhanced intelligence and the ability to command other mice (a la Krosp from Girl Genius), developed as a security system. Algernon went rogue and took over the heroines' headquarters building before he was stopped by the Pair.
- Any and all summoned animals in Naruto have this, from Kakashi's mostly-normal talking dogs to Jiraiya's extemely powerful and ancient toads. Partner animals, like Akamaru, Tonton, and Kuromaru, are a bit less so, but still impressive. Kakashi's pug Pakkun is noted as being exceptional even for ninja animals, being able to speak Kakashi's name when he was four months old. Outside of the toads and Akamaru, he gets the most screentime too.
- An established rule in the universe of Jojos Bizarre Adventure is that gaining a Stand grants intelligence and sapience to the animal that gains it. This has applied to an orangutan, a Boston terrier, a rat (actually two of them), a flower with a cat's mind, and a colony of zooplankton.
- Krypto the Superdog and other super-pets showed up in, of course, the Superman-related comics.
- The Pet Avengers! Subverted with Ms. Lion though, who while able to communicate with the others on the team is as dumb as a stack of hammers.
- And then there's Rex The Wonder Dog. Despite being an ostensibly normal dog, Rex has had a job as a photographer, has driven cars, and once nuked a T-Rex.
- Dr. Arthur Nagel, a supervillain from Marvel Comics, is supposed to have been abducted by a tribe of gorillas who stitched his head onto a gorilla's body. Considering that Dr. Nagel is still ambulatory, this may be the ultimate example of this trope.
- DreamWorks uses this trope liberally:
- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Horses are extremely intelligent animals, but the idea of a horse playing dead in order to get humans to break his chains, and then successfully breaking the latches on a train, is taking things a bit far. The directors even lampshade this in the commentary on that scene.
- The first big DreamWorks movie, Mousehunt, did this too. Let's put it this way: secret agents are not as cunning as this mouse.
- How to Train Your Dragon: Toothless turns out to be pretty smart for a dragon, understanding Hiccup's spoken commands, able to create art (even if it's just a jumble of lines), and the concept of forgiveness, sparing those who chose to spare him even if they had tried to kill him before.
- Common with Bluth Studios:
- All Dogs Go to Heaven, obviuosly all the characters, especially the dog who fears going to hell.
- Pooka, Anya's dog in Anastasia
- The Secret Of Nimh: Unlike Jonathan, Mr. Ages, and the rats, Mrs. Brisby's intelligence was not boosted by lab research yet she is able to read, escape a bird cage, and disable a tractor by cutting its fuel line.
- Disney is a huge proponent of this trope:
- The Aristocats
- Oliver & Company
- Nana from Peter Pan
- All animals appearing in Lady and the Tramp. It might even be an accepted part of that world, considering how the dogs are talked to and that the two Italian chefs take so much time to prepare a meal and music for the titular characters.
- Beauty and the Beast has an aversion: Phillipe runs from the wolves instead of defending Belle (which, while sensible, is not how a Loyal Animal Companion normally behaves in fiction), and while she tries to talk to sheep, they clearly are more interested in eating her book than reading it.
- Figaro and Cleo in Pinocchio.
- Remy in particular from Ratatouille.
- Abu and Rajah from Aladdin. Jasmine was also able to pet a goldfish. Iago the parrot is a Talking Animal, tough; he was only pretending to be a regular parrot when the sultan was around.
- The dogs from Up can talk (with technological assistance), cook, and even fly planes.
- The dogs in 101 Dalmatians. They worked out a long-distance communication system among themselves!
- Archimedes, Merlin's "highly educated" owl, in The Sword in the Stone. Sir Ector suspects that Merlin has him under a spell. Archimedes is insulted at the notion.
- Pip from Enchanted. Justified since it is a parody of all of the above.
- And, of course, Pluto, the one Mickey Mouse character who isn't a Funny Animal, but is still rather intelligent and can understand (if not speak) English.
- And the tradition continues in Tangled, which features the emotive chameleon, Pascal, and the horse, Maximus, who happens to be more competent than his own rider the (presumable) captain of the guard. Over the course of the film, he is shown tracking his quarry by scent, locating secret passages, and even 'sword fighting', all of this in manner more competent than the humans who are supposed to be 'his' masters. It's no surprise then, that at the end of the film Maximus is made the actual leader of the kingdom's guards.
- Rin Tin Tin
- All the dogs from Balto. They talk to each other but humans hear only barking.
- Won Ton Ton, an Affectionate Parody of Rin Tin Tin.
- The Buster Keaton short The Scarecrow features Luke the Dog (on loan from Fatty Arbuckle), who can walk up and down ladders.
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Jack. The monkey Jack.
- Mr. Cotton's parrot is intelligent enough to sort of telepathically understand Mr. Cotton and spout an appropriate sea phrase in response so the humans know what his human is trying to say.
- Lampshaded by Mr. Gibbs: "He trained the parrot to speak for him. *beat* Nobody's quite figured how."
- G Force: The titular trained secret agent rodents are capable of complex hand coordination, bipedal movement, physical display of human emotions (which shouldn't be possible), and computer hacking skills (as in the case of the star-nosed mole, Speckles). While all these abilities are (partially) justified by government animal experimentation, it fails to explain why the ordinary pet store animals, such as guinea pig Hurley and Hamster Bucky, are just as capable of these feats of intelligence as the G-Force team.
- Then towards the end of the movie, the unit's leader, scientist Ben, confesses that the team are not genetically enhanced animals as previously told, but ordinary ones Ben took in and trained for the team. WTF doesn't begin to describe it.
- Any Instant Messenger Pigeon would probably also qualify for this trope, since while messenger birds existed they were rarely as good at it as some fictional versions. The owls in Harry Potter, particularly, would have to be much smarter than real owls to be able to deliver messages. Of course, those are implicitly magical owls sooo...
- Suzanne in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
- The animals in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey are able to talk to each other, plan an escape out of a pound, and make pop-culture references.
- Wolf in The Journey Of Natty Gann demonstrates an implausible capacity for reason: not only does he recognize the part Natty played in his escape from a dogfighting ring (by opening a door for him), he repays her by presenting her with a freshly-killed rabbit when she's starving in the woods, and proceeds to follow her around warning her of impending danger and performing acts of altruism like defending a farmer's chicken coop from foxes for no apparent reason beyond repaying the farmer and his wife for helping Natty. At times, Wolf seems like the smartest character in the whole movie.
- Trigger, the 'smartest horse in the west'.
- The Mask: Stanley Ipkiss's dog, Milo, has shown to be able to understand human speech as he was once directed to get a pair of keys quietly from a sleeping guard to Stanley's jail cell after Stanley was framed and put in prison. Lampshaded by police detective and Hero Antagonist Lt. Mitch Kellaway when Stanley leaves him cuffed in the car with Milo for his safety, before the Jack Russel Terrier opens the car door with his teeth and joins the fray. Mitch: "Smart dog".
- In Rio, Blu, while unable to fly, can turn on a computer, ride a skateboard, and open his own cage.
- In fairness, parrots are very smart, and if they want to figure something out, sooner or later they will.
- In Back to the Future, Doc's dog Copernicus seems to at an almost human level of intelligence at times. For starters, after Doc finishes reading the letter that his future self wrote to Marty, Copernicus seems to be rather sad about Doc being Trapped in the Past. In addition, Copernicus is the one who discovers Doc's tombstone, and he seems to realize what it says.
- In Baxter, the eponymous bull terrier narrates the film and has a more complete understanding of his situation than something with dog-like intelligence. Although he's only able to do things that a normal dog would do, he knows that, for example, tripping his current master so that she falls down some stairs will lead to him becoming someone else's dog.
Live Action TV
- The titular kangaroo of Skippy The Bush Kangaroo not only showed a remarkable understanding of English, but would often imitate human behaviors like playing a piano or the drums.
- Flipper understood the people he dealt with.
- Spot, however, did not necessarily understand Data any better than a cat understands a normal human.
- Lassie, naturally, cannot only understand, but can also bark in some sort of code that humans understand to mean Timmy in a Well.
- Arnold from Green Acres was arguably smarter than all the humans.
- Comet, the horse from The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., is a blatant parody of this trope. Not only does Brisco's steed perform some unlikely feats of intelligence on camera, but Bruce Campbell regularly refers to even less-plausible things Comet had been doing, before its rider whistled for it.
- Due South: Diefenbaker, the deaf half-wolf was just as much Fraser's partner as Ray.
- The Littlest Hobo: The doggy protagonist seems to understand human speech, as well as concepts like tape recorders.
- An entire episode revolves around two scientists trying to get hold of him to find out just how smart he is; he has no interest in their work, and better things to do. In the end, the answer seems to be "smarter that the scientists."
- Eddie, the Jack Russell in Frasier, ping-ponged across the line between realistically intelligent, as-unrealistically-bright-as-the-Rule of Funny-will-allow, Gromit-esque Silent Snarker, and occasionally so very stupid it seems like he's putting it on....
- Tales of the Gold Monkey: Jack, the one eyed bull terrier. Barks once for no, twice for yes (and never been wrong) and understands at least three languages (English, Japanese, and Spanish.)
- A junkyard cat called "Jack Bauer the Cat" in an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It seemed to be street-smarts personified, albeit a totally normal cat otherwise.
- Nancy Drew games:
- Loulou the Parrot from The Curse of Blackmoor Manor is smart enough to play complex word games, translate Latin, and play pranks on Nancy Drew. Even for an octogenarian, that's shrewd.
- Her granddaughter Coucou, from Ransom of the Seven Ships, continues the family tradition of genius. The game-playing monkeys on the island aren't slouches either.
- Isis from The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is a borderline example, as she can understand and remember a long series of commands, but only after considerable training.
- Inverted by Mr. Mingles, the Pomeranian from Resorting To Danger. It'd take a phenomenally stupid animal to get into half the predicaments — trapped in a dumbwaiter, locked in a safe, sucked up a pneumatic delivery tube — that pesky puffball manages to stumble into.
- Koromaru the dog from Persona 3 can summon a Persona, fight using a knife held in his teeth, and understands human speech perfectly. That should be more than enough to qualify.
- Boney from Mother 3. Unlike Ness's, Lucas's dog is extremely competent. He's fast, is strong enough to cause damage to metal, and is even capable of using items on battle (Hell, he's using a Saltwater Gun effectively even though he has no hands). In Chapter 4, he's able to normally walk as a human for long periods and fooling the guards into thinking he's human. It is also implied that Boney understands human speech
- Repede from Tales of Vesperia. He's a dog who's perfectly capable of understanding human speech, and is an extremely capable fighter, being able to wield a sword held in his teeth, and being able to unleash artes that are just as flashy and deadly as those of the human characters.
- Blanca from Shadow Hearts: Covenant, who is not only a domesticated wolf raised from a puppy, but is also a full party member enough to make combos with other allies.
- Justified in Dragon Age: Origins: the Mabari War Hounds actually are as intelligent as humans, having been originally bred by Telvinter magisters. In fact, they're often said to be smarter; after all, they know better than to speak, and "Dog," your party's war hound, is smart enough to easily understand human speech. A few characters have full conversations with him, and the player character seems to understand his barks as well.
- Justified in Ghost Trick: In the ghost world animals can perfectly communicate with humans since human and animal souls are no different to each other, and since there's no language barrier in the world of the deadnote . The only "barriers" between humans and animals is the latter's lack of understanding of more human concepts. For example: Missile, a small Pomeranian, is perfectly able to communicate with Sissel in the ghost world, all while maintaining his ordinary dog behavior like loudness, upbeat oblivious attitude, and fierce loyalty to his owner.
- Roadkill from Comix Zone can be released to get by obstacles and hit the switches that turn them off, then return to Sketch. In the backstory mentioned, Sketch never specifically trained Roadkill to do anything at all.
- It's possible to use the telepathy in the Golden Sun games on animals, whose thoughts are always at least as comprehensible as human ones, and often show the animals as more insightful than the people. The second game has an extensive trade quest based on what can be uncovered of the wants of a group of animals (some of whom even deliberately use the telepathy to be conversational).
- Subverted in Girl Genius, where Krosp the talking cat is a mad scientist's creation, endowed not just with intelligence and speech but also the ability to command all other cats, creating an unseen army of spies, messengers and saboteurs wherever he goes. Emphasis on "mad": cats obey Krosp, but they're animals. They're not sapient, they can't reason, and if they understand their orders they have an attention span of seconds.
- Well, it's not quite right to say he has the "ability" to command cats. That was his intended purpose, but the only problem that was solved by creating Krosp was the issue of communication. Cats can understand him and vice versa, but he still has to get their attention, get them interested enough to do what he's asking, and care enough to do it for long enough to actually finish the job. Seeing as they're cats, it was this last one especially that caused problems.
- According to Krosp himself, he easily gets their attention and gets them interested — he's apparently got epic-level charisma as far as cats are concerned — but he can't always make them understand what he wants, and then the attention span causes them to forget about what he told them to do.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: Judy, Doctor McNinja's gorilla receptionist, can read and write, drive cars, and is in general treated like a human character. Yoshi the raptor mount is somewhat more animalistic, but is able to communicate with Judy and understand concepts like writing, even if he can't read. Later, when fully sapient dinosaurs take over the world, they try to make him intelligent, but even then he has rather limited linguistic abilities and is only capable of You No Take Candle-style speech.
- Scratch Fury (Destroyer of Worlds) is a hyperintelligent cat in PvP. PvP is not a "funny animal" strip, and Scratch is the only animal to be depicted this way. (There's a recurring basset character that ranges in intelligence between "real basset hound" and "human moron", depending on whichever would be funnier.)
- A parrot saved the life of a baby by screaming, flapping his wings, and saying "mama baby" over and over until the babysitter realized the baby was choking.
- Animal rights groups, even the less extreme ones, contend that many animals are more intelligent than we give them credit for, which is why they are against animal testing, whaling, and a number of other activities that harm animals by man's hand.
- This is a huge generalisation. Many animal rights advocates believe that humans are far superior to animals in intelligence and self-awareness, but that this superiority does not give us carte blanche to imprison and slaughter them.
- Most animals (or at least most vertebrates) are in fact much more intelligent then the majority of people give them credit for.
- Animal Behavior researchers were complaining that every time they proved that crows, for instance, could pass one of the tests other scientists set for "true intelligence," like being able to anticipate another animal's actions, the rest of the scientific community moved the goalposts. It could be easier for even an invertebrate to evolve a kind of intelligence than for it to develop a bunch of inherent responses to preprogrammed stimuli.
- On the other hand, sometimes they get desperate. The only "tool use" observed in gorillas, for instance, is hanging onto a tree while fishing in a river. That basically amounts to using the tree as a "tool" the same way that a squirrel does. Gorillas are intelligent, but not in the same way humans (or any other animal) are. Anthromorphization is more important to those people than proving genuine intelligence, these days.
- Tool use is an interesting measure that is actually far less clearly defined than you might think. For example, some apes have been observed using sticks to reach into small holes for bugs and other food or even as basic spears. Many animals can be trained or otherwise taught to use human made devices. But while these traits certainly point towards an intelligence (rather than pure instinct), they don't necessarily prove sentience (self-awareness).
- However, some chimpanzees have been observed to break off branches, strip side branches from them, and chew points onto them to make spears.
- Some philosophers have argued that the true measure of sentience is the ability to understand abstract concepts well enough to ask the question "why?". Of course, that means that barriers to communication may prevent us from being able to recognize true sentience in other creatures for now.
- The principal lesson to note here of course is that no two scientists or philosophers have ever been able to agree on what "sentience" or "self-awareness" even are (besides intentionally vague gut-feeling words popularised by Star Trek). The increasingly popular point of view is that there is in fact no such single property at all; whatever humans have is combinatorial, and exists in degrees.
- Many animals are showing feats of intelligence they scientists are were sure that their species could not, mostly because of inadequate testing methods. One specific example, science once thought cats where fairly stupid creatures, as they repeatedly failed intelligence tests that other creatures like dogs, horses, and even rats easily solved. It took several decades to prove that cats were failing these tests not because they couldn't solve them, but be cause they didn't want to solve them. Cats are notoriously stubborn and hard to train creatures, and nearly all animal cognitive tests at the time involved training the animals to associate solving the tests with a food reward. Eventually it was realized that cats were the only tested animals to realize that the scientists would most likely feed them even if they did nothing.
- Some animals that have immense strength were completely overlooked by the scientific community in terms of intelligence, because they can solve problems with brute force rather than with problem solving. Case and point, some species mantis shrimp can punch things as hard a 22. caliber bullet yet have a level of intelligence comparable to seven year old human.
- Koko the gorilla is capable of communicating with emotional nuance in American Sign Language.
- As well as use of the language in untaught, novel ways. For instance, she referred to a gorilla she strongly disliked as "bad toilet," among other names. She also invented terms for things, like "drink fruit" for watermelon. Scientists estimate Koko's IQ at around 70-95. If her IQ is 80, that makes her smarter than more than 9% of humans. They are intelligent, but not in a 100% "human" way. Tool use is just one thing that people like to fixate on.
- However, many other behavioral researchers don't think Koko is nearly as intelligent or communicative as her trainer (whose livelihood basically depends on it) claims, and people who actually know sign language who have watched video of Koko deny that she's really signing so much as mainly pointing at things.
- It's important to realize, though, that concepts like IQ can't really apply to animals, since many animals are as smart or smarter than humans in certain very specific areas, but not others. Alex the parrot, mentioned above, is often misleading referenced as being "as smart as a five-year-old." Some things he could do, like answer questions such as "What's the same?" or "What's different?" are indeed tasks that even gifted human five-year-olds often struggle with. But there are other intellectual tasks any five-year-old could do that Alex couldn't (and, no doubt, probably things every parrot knows that no human does).
- In an episode of the Reality Show It's Me Or The Dog, super-intelligent dogs were featured, hilariously stealing the peanut butter as their trainer watched through hidden cameras.
- Goldfish — you know, the ones with a "memory of three seconds" — are social. Social animals generally evolve to be smarter than solitary animals. Goldfish can recognize faces and associate them and a few words ("Hi fishies!" for example) with food, post sentries when they have big enough schools in big enough tanks, and like watching TV. And they can learn tricks. It does take patience and they're not exactly bright, but they're not ambulatory plants by any means.
- MythBusters did a segment on the alleged three-second memory of goldfish. The fish were able to perform tricks and navigate mazes months after they were taught.
- Every time the matter of animal intelligence comes up, the first example that gets trotted out is parrots who learn enough English to carry on actual conversations. One report on such parrots even demonstrated that one such parrot could, in tests, understand that he was being asked to tell what was different about two shapes he was shown and could even suss out trick questions (asking "What's different?" about two identical shapes got a response of "None").
- Then there's the kea, a mountain-dwelling parrot from New Zealand that is so smart that whole flocks of them have been known to happily take apart the cars of inattentive skiers.
- Recently they reported that a certain species of Corvidae family (ravens, crows, jackdaws, jays, magpies, etc) actually made tools (a skill usually associated only with Great Apes).
- Among other things, adult ravens have been shown to be able to solve simple physics problems (they'd be great at Half-Life 2). They can also reason about whether other ravens saw them when hiding stuff.
- They can also learn from each other. In one experiment, two ravens were given a hole with some food and a piece of wire each; one got a wire that had been bent into a hook, while the other got a useless straight wire. The one with the hook quickly figured out that he could use the wire to fish the food out of the hole, but the other one topped him when noticed that his hook was not a hook at all, and bent his wire into an identical tool before going after the food.
- They're also pretty good at planning ahead. Studies show that when food is tied to a perch, other, less bright birds will try to fly away with it, while corvids will drop the food because they know they can come back later.
- Ravens recruit other ravens to help them when they have found a good food source. When the discoverer returns to the roost (one in Newborough, Anglesey is one of the largest in Europe, 6000 birds at least.) in the evening, it will take part in displays and stunts with other birds (Ravens love to play and show off their aerobatic skills). He will have the energy to be more elaborate and longer-lasting than other birds, who will see this, recognise that he has fed well, and roost in the same tree as him, following him in the morning when he returns to the food. This way, he has a big mob of allies to protect the food source from competitors until they have picked it clean.
- Older than Television with Clever Hans. Domestic animals can be incredibly empathetic with humans. Note that current studies on animal cognition almost always involve extensive controls to avoid "the Clever Hans effect": for instance, tests are usually set up so that they receive as little cuing as possible (often the animal can't see or hear the examiner while they're figuring out the answer).
- There was a documentary on canine intelligence on TV a while ago, which centered on a Jack Russell who could do math (as it turned out, it was the same situation as with Clever Hans, with the dog reading his owner's body language). There was also a bit about some researchers that were studying dog intelligence and one of the experiments involved a touch screen and a treat dispenser. Images would be shown on the screen in random combinations and positions, with one 'positive' and one 'negative'. If the dog nosed the 'positive' image it got a treat, if it nosed the negative one it got nothing. Not only did the dogs quickly memorize which was which, but also when a new image was shown on screen with an established 'negative' one, the dog was able to instantly work out that the new image was 'positive'. It might not sound that impressive, but it proves that dogs are capable of reasoning, and fast reasoning at that, which a lot of people think to be beyond them.
- Some breeds are smarter then others. Lap dogs such as Shih Tzus, pugs, etc. are notoriously dim, but then you have breeds like German Shepherds and Border Collies which are smarter then some humans.
- That phrase "lap dogs" is the important one. Working breeds (anything named "shepherd", for instance) are smarter than breeds meant purely for companionship, because they were specifically bred to be smart enough to learn and follow commands; dumber breeds come from less selective programs that were usually focused on appearance rather than smarts.
- For invertebrates, octopodes are pretty damn smart. The latest discovery in this area is of a species that carries coconut shells around to hide in.
- Cephalopods are geniuses. Octopodes can tell the difference between individual humans who interact with them, have hundreds of different moods and distinct personalities (which they reflect upon by changing their skin color) and can learn how to navigate mazes and open jars.
- Hell, octopodes understand the concept of deceit. One octopus managed to climb out of its tank, enter the crabs tank, eat the crabs—and then go back to its tank and play dumb.
- Rats, for rodents, are very clever, being able to navigate mazes, (and how buttons and levers to get around them work), can learn by trial and error, and can be taught tricks. It's why they are often considered the ideal lab animal.
- Considered to be such by behavioral science researchers, perhaps. Medical researchers tend not to consider cleverness a good trait in a lab animal.
- As noted on the subject of goldfish, part of this is because rats are highly social animals. This is also why they make such good pets; they can be litter trained, and learn to recognize humans as a food source and someone to play with. But they still need contact with other rats, so get two.
- Squirrels are the chief rivals of rats for the title of "smartest rodent", as demonstrated by their phenomenal ability to outsmart the protections people use for their birdfeeders.
- Rats are one of the few nonhuman animals known to show clear signs of empathy. In one experiment, rats learned how to free a companion from a small cage. They continued to do so even when there was absolutely no benefit to themselves - no food reward, no signal for praise, and even in cases wherein the freed rat would be released into a different enclosure from the rescuer (so no playmate).
- Crows in Japan and California have been seen using passing cars to crack walnuts; seagulls have been witnessed doing the same, but with clams and the like. They even go to traffic crossings and only deposit and retrieve the nuts when it's safe.
- Thanks to the massive influx of vending machines Japan has built, crows have actually figured out by watching us that if you put spare change in (though they haven't figured out how much) and press a button, food will come out. That's right, crows in Japan know how to use a vending machine.
- Orangutans are notorious escape artists. They've discovered how to scale electric fences, how to pick locks, and (possibly most importantly) how to hide efforts at the previous two things from zookeepers. Give an orangutan a screwdriver, and it will hide it, then dismantle its cage with it once you're gone.
- Reptiles. They may have smaller brains than mammals, but they're much more intelligent than we give them credit for. In the past, many attempts to gauge reptile intelligence came to the conclusion that they were incredibly stupid, but it turned out that this was only because reptiles see and evaluate the world differently from the way we mammals do. You can't train a snake to do something in the same way you can train a cat, because you need to understand how a snake's brain and senses make it perceive the world. More recent studies, reflecting on this idea, have shown that, among other things, corn snakes are able to navigate mazes, monitor lizards engage in play behavior and can distinguish numbers up to six, crocodiles learn faster than lab rats with little conditioning, and leopard geckos have distinct personalities. Smart, indeed.
- In fact, many neurologists have begun to abandon the idea that brain size determines how intelligent an animal is. This should be obvious, because certain species of rodents have brain-to-body size ratios larger than that of humans.
- This opens up even more possibilities for dinosaurs...
- Green Iguana babies are very social with their hatchmates, forming pods to travel together which have leaders who seem to look out for the rest. When hawks show up, the smaller females freeze in cover or flee; the larger males run in front of the hawks or cover their sisters' bodies with their own.
- Sharks. Once thought of as mindless killing machines, they are now known to possess an intelligence close to that of the seals that they feed upon. Sharks will engage in play behavior and can eventually grow to recognize the humans who feed them.
- Dolphins, anyone? A 2009 assessment of their cognitive ability has classified them as non-human people.
- Not to mention that different pods of dolphins have their own dialects of echolocation communication, which serves as a limited language. Each pod has its own hunting strategies, which it passes down generation to generation by teaching their young how to do it. In particular, one famous pod of orcas near South America has learned how to catch sea lions by beaching themselves on the surf.
- A study showed that dolphins have specific patterns of echolocation that are used to refer to individuals - in other words, they use names for each other.
- How about elephants? They have developed their own morality, and perform acts of altruism simply because they think it's the right thing to do. There's a story about an elephant matriarch who charged a camel herder, broke his leg... and then carried him into the shade and stood guard over him. They can also use tools with their trunk, which acts as a hand. They are also one of only a few species that have demonstrated the ability to recognize their own reflection in a mirror, something most housecats have yet to comprehend.
- They can also get revenge. One elephant, who was angry at a group of humans for killing its mate, killed the cattle on the humans' farm. It knew that the humans liked the cattle. A less intelligent animal would just kill the humans. But this elephant decided to kill something that was close to the humans in the same way that they killed something that was close to it. Fridge Brilliance at its finest.
- Many animals mourn dead friends and family members, but elephants have rituals around death. They bury their dead, in a way - and they sometimes bury dead humans in the same way, but don't do that to other species - and go reverently quiet when they encounter the bones of their own kind. If you wanted to feel even worse about poachers and the ivory trade, when many members of a herd are killed, the survivors are traumatized, and without elders around to model behavior and teach them to cope, young ones grow up violent.
- There have been studies showing that slime moulds can navigate mazes. Now, obviously, they don't have brains so they can't be intelligent in the way we understand it, but that just means it might be time to completely rethink our concept of intelligence.
- Scientists have known for a long time that monkeys possess the ability to understand fairly complex games, and they've recently discovered that not only do some species of monkeys recognize when they're being cheated, they are not in the least bit happy about it.
- In this video, two monkeys are given disparate rewards for the same task. The monkey getting cucumber is perfectly happy with it until he realizes the second monkey is getting grapes.
- Raccoons are very intelligent, and have humanlike hands they can pick things up with. They have been known to unlock doors, open jars, and steal people's things. They can stand up on their hind legs and beg for food. Groups of raccoons will often scheme together to get food. If a human decides to feed a raccoon he will often come back to the place it happened at the same time the following day, and may well bring some of his friends with him. Groups can get very large depending on how many people the raccoon has told about the food source. If the person who gave them food has done so for a while and happens not to be home one day, it's not uncommon for raccoons to try to break in. Like cats and humans, raccoons also do their business in private places, and don't like to be seen doing so by others. Raccoons can be domesticated to an extent, but their hands with sharp claws have been been known to damage things due to their curiosity. They can also be trained to clap and fetch things, unlock doors, open jars, and will often pick up and steal people's things. When kept as pets alongside other animals, they clearly enjoy annoying dogs and cats by climbing up out of their way. Raccoons also breed a lot, and this leads to them raiding dumpsters and trash cans for food. In particular they really seem to love grapes. Like humans, they like to set up a home area where they can sleep, even if it ends up in being somebody's roof insulation, leading to exterminators needing to be called. All this has contributed to the belief that they are pests, even though many consider them cute. In Russia, people regularly keep them as pets. It should be noted that raccoons are derived from a common ancestor of bears, cats and dogs, and possess attributes of all of them.
- According to Irene Pepperberg's research, some parrots and other psittaciform birds can be taught to speak simple English intelligibly instead of mindlessly repeating words.But he is one of only a handful of such animals shown, as most animals are shown to be just like regular ones.