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Biology 10, Lesson 130 – Animal Intelligence

Many say that animals are not as smart as humans, and while I agree with that statement, I also believe that we should not underestimate the intelligence of animals.  In this essay, I am going to convince you that animals are not as dumb as you may think.

Firstly, how should we characterize intelligence in animals?  In the video lesson this week, Mr. Bear listed a few characteristics of intelligence that can be found in animals:

  1. Visually dominant sensory system
  2. Recognizes members of their own group
  3. Uses tools for hunting, cleaning, etc.
  4. Cooperates in hunting and other activities (coordination of efforts and recognition of rank)

When thinking about animal intelligence, many people think of primates.  Primates include chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, and other types of apes.  They are considered intelligent because of the large size of their brains and their developed neocortex. 

Primates have shown to be very social, and to even have social ranks amongst themselves.  What is surprising is that primates have a large range of emotions that were thought to only be possible for humans to experience/exhibit.  Primates are also very affectionate and caring to one another.  There have been stories of female chimpanzees and gorillas adopting orphans of their own kind.

Chimpanzees have been taught sign language to communicate with humans and each other.  But even those who live in the wild have been seen to use hand gestures to communicate with one another.  They show physical signs of affection like holding hands or patting each other on the back, much like humans do.

Another group of highly intelligent animals are elephants, who are one of the few species to be born without instincts.  Like humans, they must figure out how to survive in the world.  The majority of this learning process happens during the first ten years of their lives.  Elephants not only have the ability to retain long-term memories, but they can also experience and perceive a wide range of emotions.  This is because of their very developed hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that stores memories and emotions.

A less well known fact about elephants is that they have a ceremony, or ritual, to mourn their dead.  While it is not as intricate as human’s, they have been seen caressing or touching the deceased member while making consistent low groaning noises.  If a herd passes an elephant that is already deceased and reduced to a skeleton, they will pay their respects before moving along.

As you can see, animals are not as unintelligent as you may think.  They may not match the intelligence of a human, but they are definitely not brainless.

Thanks for reading!


Author: sophiaelahirpc

10th Grade student in the Ron Paul Curriculum. Full-time teen writer living in Singapore.

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