May 1, 2013

Interesting & Unusual Animal Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

In this post I bring together some scientific studies combined with videos to show that animals have self-awareness and can think. Of course, they are still animals and respond to the stimuli of their environment as always. What I will show is that they respond in an intelligent manner. They can plan. They can understand. They can recognize themselves in a mirror. At least some can.

To begin with I would like to bring your attention to an extract of an article from Scientific American...

One World, Many Minds: Intelligence in the Animal Kingdom

*Despite cartoons you may have seen showing a straight line of fish emerging on land to become primates and then humans, evolution is not so linear. The brains of other animals are not merely previous stages that led directly to human intelligence.

*Instead-as is the case with many traits-complex brains and sophisticated cognition have arisen multiple times in independent lineages of animals during the earth's evolutionary history.

*With this new understanding comes a new appreciation for intelligence in its many forms. So-called lower animals, such as fish, reptiles and birds, display a startling array of cognitive capabilities. Goldfish, for instance, have shown they can negotiate watery mazes similar to the way rats do in intelligence tests in the lab.

In other words, awareness and intelligence is not something that is only present in us.


A test shows a magpie can recognize itself in a mirror...


A Dolphin Helps Whales To Safety - Animal Hero

This Video Shows That Dolphins Can Think And Make Thier Own Decisions...

Another example but from a dog: A dog rushes into traffic to help another dog. Animal empathy in action.

Animal's Self Awareness Tested By A Self-Recognition Test

When we are kids we begin to recognize ourselves in the mirror between the ages of 2 and 4. This has been observed scientifically by using a "mirror test".

The test is simple. Put a mark on the subjects face and see if they can recognize the mark on their face in a mirror (and try and remove it).

Little kids have passed the test and so have apes (not monkeys), elephants and dolphins.

  Self-Recognition in Apes

 Great Apes Think Ahead: Conclusive Evidence Of Advanced Planning Capacities

ScienceDaily (June 19, 2008) - Apes can plan for their future needs just as we humans can - by using self-control and imagining future events. Mathias and Helena Osvath's research, from Lunds University Cognitive Science in Sweden, is the first to provide conclusive evidence of advanced planning capacities in non-human species.

The complex skill of future planning is commonly believed to be exclusive to humans, and has not yet been convincingly established in any living primate species other than our own. In humans, planning for future needs relies heavily on two mental capacities: self-control or the suppression of immediate drives in favor of delayed rewards; and mental time travel or the detached mental experience of a past or future event.

Magpies Recognize Their Faces in the Mirror

Some birds can recognize itself!

[Magpie images is from here.]
When you look in the mirror, you know you are seeing yourself. Your dog, on the other hand, thinks its reflection is a fellow canine (if anything). So far scientists thought this lack of self-recognition was ubiquitous in the animal kingdom-with the exception of apes, elephants and dolphins. But a new study presents evidence that self-recognition has also evolved in a bird species.

Helmut Prior of Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, and his team tagged magpies with a brightly colored mark below their beaks, where the birds could not see it directly. When the magpies looked in the mirror, some of them tried to reach the mark with their beak or touch it with their foot, which shows that they recognized their own mirror image, the researchers say.

The evolutionary lines of birds and mammals split apart about 300 million years ago from our common ancestors, which were small-brained reptiles. Such a long separation suggests that self-recognition emerged independently at least two times, Prior says. The findings also provide a challenge for scientists trying to identify regions of the brain associated with consciousness and self-recognition by looking at brain structures that are unique to higher mammals, he explains: "Obviously, self-recognition is possible with completely different brains."

Elephants are really smart too!

[Elephants image is from here.]

Elephant Intelligence: Why Elephants Might Be as Smart as Humans

With increased loss of habitat, destruction of migration paths, and poaching by humans, it's no wonder elephant attacks are on the rise. Scientists studying why groups of elephants have become hostile and perhaps depressed have also discovered quite a
bit about elephant intelligence. The notion that elephants might be as smart as humans is a relatively new one, putting elephants on par with other sophisticated animals like dolphins.

Here are some of the reasons elephants may be even smarter than we thought:

Elephants use tools.

Like primates, elephant calves will play with objects found in their natural environment. Elephants' use of objects goes beyond playfulness and curiosity, though. Elephants use sticks to scratch themselves, shoo away flies, and intimidate enemies. In captivity, elephants have used large rocks to short circuit electric fences.

Elephants mourn their dead.

 Talking Elephant?

Interesting Facts About Apes: Awareness and Intelligence

Chimpanzees and Gorillas have been able to learn simple sign language. They also make tools to help them when foraging for food such as using a stick to get bugs or using a rock to crack hard nuts.

One Chimpanzee, who was taught sign language, signalled "water" and "bird" in sign language first time she saw a duck. This shows that chimpanzees create different labels to understand their environment.

All apes have developed a system of communication that suit their particular lifestyles. A good analysis of chimpanzee communications can be found here.

Chimpanzee vs. Human child learning (1/2)

Interesting Facts About Elephants: Awareness and Intelligence

Although the African elephant is larger, the Asian elephant is more related to the ancient Mammoths. 

An elephant drinks water by filling its truck and then putting the water in its mouth.

An elephant trunk is heavy even for an elephant! Sometimes an elephant will carry its trunk on its tusks.

Elephants not only have long memories but they play, laugh and cry. 
The African elephant is the largest animal on land on earth.

An adult elephant can eat over 330 pounds of food a day.

An elephant can live for over 70 years.

An elephants trunk has over 100,000 different muscles which makes it very sensitive and strong.

"Elephants communicate on many levels.

One way to gauge animal intelligence is by the complexity of their communication. Elephants communicate like other animals both verbally and with body language. But elephants can hear at a much lower frequency than humans, and also sense vibrations with their hyper-sensitive feet from miles away."  From "Elephant Intelligence"

Crows and Ravens

Crows adapt to their environment fast and are very intelligent which can be seen in the video below.

Crows can mimic the sounds of other animals and have a sophisticated system of communication.

Historically crows have been a nuisance for crops so they have often been attacked by humans to decrease thier population. Many communities still have a negative image of crows because of our historical incompatibility.

Crows can "dive bomb" people or animals if they approach a nest. For nesting crows will pair off and produce 6-8 young. At least one of the young crows will stick around to get food and protect the nest for the next season.

Crows tend to live in small groups that are not necessarily determined by 'family'. It's more like independent tribes of crows with very few nest related crows in a group.

About Crows from National Geographic

[Crow image is from here.]

Crows as Clever as Great Apes, Study Says

Anyone who has watched crows, jays, ravens and other members of the corvid family will know they're anything but "birdbrained."

For instance, jays will sit on ant nests, allowing the angry insects to douse them with formic acid, a natural pesticide which helps rid the birds of parasites. Urban-living carrion crows have learned to use road traffic for cracking tough nuts. They do this at traffic light crossings, waiting patiently with human pedestrians for a red light before retrieving their prize.

Yet corvids may be even cleverer than we think. A new study suggests their cognitive abilities are a match for primates such as chimpanzees and gorillas. Furthermore, crows may provide clues to understanding human intelligence.

Published tomorrow in the journal Science, the study is co-authored by Nathan Emery and Nicola Clayton, from the departments of animal behavior and experimental psychology at Cambridge University, England.

They say that, while having very different brain structures, both crows and primates use a combination of mental tools, including imagination and the anticipation of possible future events, to solve similar problems. They base their argument on existing studies.

Interesting Facts About Parrots: Awareness and Intelligence

A parrot can live up to 80 years in the wild!

There are over 350 different species of parrot. They all have certain things in common. They all have curved beaks. they all have two toes pointing forward and two toes backwards. They all eat fruits, nut, berries and sometimes small insects.

Parrots live in all warm climates all over the world and are a common sight in many cities. More on National Geographic.
Many species of parrots can 'speak'. What they really do is mimic sound using enlarged air sacks to compress air to mimic the sound it likes. 

A parrot likes to eat its food while holding it in one of its hands. Either one will do.

Parrots live in herds and tend to squaq and screech alot. Making alot of noise. 

Parrots make excellent pets and are fairly easy to train. Pet parrots tend to mimic sounds alot more than ones in the wild. The best speakers are African Grays.

Parrots may be alot more intelligent than we first realized. Some species more than others of course. They seem to be as smart as crows in some ways, maybe even smarter?

Interesting Zebra Facts

No one really knows why Zebras have stripes but they think it might be camouflage. What we do know that no two Zebras have identical stripes. Each one is unique in how its stripes come up just like fingerprints on people. 

Zebras live in family groups and can join with other family groups into large herds. Yet in the herd itself the family members on one group tend to stick together.

If a Zebra gets caught by a lion then its family will help it and fight of the attack.
There are three species of Zebras. Two in East Africa and one in South Africa.

The Zebras coat is very shiny which helps reflect the heat of the sun off them. Some scientists think that the stripes help reflect sun rays even better making it easier for them to stand the hot African savanna  sun.

The females in a group always walk according to an establish order. The oldest mare takes lead while the youngest is at the back of the line. The male horse - leader - of the group goes about as he wills. 

Interesting Facts About Giraffes

Giraffes are the worlds tallest mammal. Just their legs are over 6 feet and they themselves can grow taller than 18 feet!

Each step of a giraffe cover a distance of 15 feet.

They can run at over 35 miles per hour (53 kilometers/hr).

Giraffes don't need to drink water everyday. In fact they go several days without water.
Like cows giraffes regurgitate their food to eat it later. (they also fight like bulls but with long necks! i.e. they may be suitable for farming)

They eat hundreds of pounds of vegetation a week and so must travel over miles to get it.

A giraffe will only sleep for about five to 30 minutes in a day.

A baby giraffe can stand up within a half hour after birth and can actually run, keeping up with her mother, in under 14 hours. 

Each giraffe has a unique coats of spots and you can tell a giraffes age by how dark its spots are. The darker the spots the older they are.

A giraffe is one of the few animals that is born with a horn.

A giraffe can kill a lion with just one kick.

Interesting Rhinoceros Facts

There are three types of Rhinoceroses. The Indian Rhinoceros, the Black Rhinoceros and the White Rhinoceros.

The Black and White Rhinoceroses are actually gray. Both live in Africa. The difference is that one grazes from the ground while the other forages from trees and bushes.

The Indian Rhinoceros has only one horn while the others have two horns. 

All Rhinos have good eyesight and bloodhound like smelling abilities. They actually track each other through smell from trees and the ground.
Rhinoceroses love to wallow around in the mud and soak themselves in water. They also like to stay out of the sun and under the shade for most of the day.

Rhinoceroses have armor like skin which has protect them in the wild so much so that they have been around for millions of years.  They are vegetarians and get all thier food by grazing. They also live to about 35-40 years of age and have been clocked at over 30 miler per hour - that's a really fast charge keeping big predators like lions away from them.

Interesting Hippopotamus Facts

The name Hippopotamus is Greek for 'River Horse' because they spend most of the day submerged underwater with only their eyes and nose showing.

When they bask on the shore-line their skin gets covered with an oily red substance which they produce as a moisturizer and sunblock.

They graze on over 30 pounds of grass a day or rather night as that is when it is cool enough for them to leave the water. They can travel 6-8 miles after sunset to a grazing area.

They live over 40 years and yes, they do fart through their mouths!

Hippopotamuses are bad tempered animals that should be avoided. They also have been difficult to trace - evolutionary speaking. For over 2 centuries scientists have been trying to figure out where Hippopotamuses evolved from. Interestingly enough they have this problems with whales too. Recently it has been discovered that Hippopotamuses and Whales may have a common ancestor.

"And several DNA analyses have concluded that whales and hippos in particular share a common ancestor. But some paleontologists have been reluctant to embrace the molecular findings because whereas the oldest known whales date back to more than 53 million years ago, the earliest hippos yet found are only around 15 million years old. The fossil trail of anthracotheres, however, doesn't peter out until some 41 million years ago. An anthracothere origin of hippos could thus reduce the gap between them and whales to just 12 million years. "This is the best work so far to link anthracotheres to hippos," comments fossil-cetacean expert J.G.M. (Hans) Thewissen of the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. The challenge now, he adds, will be to identify anthracothere ancestors from the right time and place to bridge the remaining break between hippos and whales."  From Scientific American

No comments:

Post a Comment