One of the best articles I’ve read about animal intelligence was “Animal Minds” by Virginia Morell in the National Geographic magazine published last year in March.
It’s the kind of article that will probably make some vegans cringe because of all the animal testing and because of the human-centric assumptions most scientists make, but the experiments are behavioral and relatively non-intrusive so of all the kinds of animal testing, it’s probably the least harmful. And it’s the kind of article that will help convince one of the most frustrating kinds of anti-animal people, the person who claims animals don’t think and feel similarly to how we think and feel.
Here are some pieces from the article, to tease you to read the whole thing. Or, if you want, just skip to an accompanying video (here):
“Certain skills are considered key signs of higher mental abilities: good memory, a grasp of grammar and symbols, self-awareness, understanding others’ motives, imitating others, and being creative. Bit by bit, in ingenious experiments, researchers have documented these talents in other species, gradually chipping away at what we thought made human beings distinctive while offering a glimpse of where our own abilities came from. Scrub jays know that other jays are thieves and that stashed food can spoil; sheep can recognize faces; chimpanzees use a variety of tools to probe termite mounds and even use weapons to hunt small mammals; dolphins can imitate human postures; the archerfish, which stuns insects with a sudden blast of water, can learn how to aim its squirt simply by watching an experienced fish perform the task. And Alex the parrot turned out to be a surprisingly good talker.” [...]
“The bonobo Kanzi, for instance, carries his symbol-communication board with him so he can ‘talk’ to his human researchers, and he has invented combinations of symbols to express his thoughts.”[...]
“They gave Betty other tests, each requiring a slightly different solution, such as making a hook out of a flat piece of aluminum rather than a wire. Each time, Betty invented a new tool and solved the problem. ‘It means she had a mental representation of what it was she wanted to make. Now that,’ Kacelnik said, ‘is a major kind of cognitive sophistication.’”[...]
“We don’t share their biology or ecology. That leaves social similarities—the need to establish relationships and alliances superimposed on a lengthy period of maternal care and longevity—as the likely common driving [evolutionary] force.”