Animal skills that will blow your mind

Dog wearing sweater and glasses reading newspaper.
Getty

Which animal is smartest? Nobody knows, because humans can't come up with a universal definition of animal intelligence, let alone a way to measure and rank it.

But there are some pretty cluey beasts out there, and a lot of them have become intelligent in ways that you'd never expect.

Ants use pheromones to communicate


Ants: Their pheromones are more useful than yours.

Ants use chemical signals to communicate and organise large groups. When they find a food source, ants will leave a trail of pheromones on their way back to the colony so other ants know where to go for food.

If an ant is crushed, it will send out a different chemical that tells ants from the same colony to go berserk and attack whatever's killing it. And in the event their nest is destroyed, ants will use chemical trails to organise the quickest path to a new home.

Crows and magpies play pranks


This crow probably thinks your distress is hilarious.

The corvid family, which includes crows, magpies, rooks and ravens, is at the top of the class when it comes to birds, although parrots provide some stiff competition.

Corvids can use tools, understand water displacement, and engage in complex social relationships. But even more interesting, they also play jokes.

British celebrity zookeeper Gerald Durrell's pet magpies, when bored, would imitate the sounds of humans calling the chickens to be fed. The chickens would come running, only to be disappointed. Once the chickens left empty-beaked, the magpies would repeat the trick, just to be jerks about it.

Crows also play tricks.

Dolphins solve complex problems


This dolphin could program a VCR if VCRs were still a thing and dolphins had them.

It won't be news to most people that dolphins are pretty bright, although whether they're as clever as we've been led to believe is coming under scrutiny.

Dolphins are one of the only animals outside the great ape family that can recognise themselves in mirrors, as this video demonstrates.

They're also capable of using the same tools as humans to solve complex problems.

Ants do something that only they and humans do


Ant farmer attends his aphids. "Yup, they're fine beasts", his pheromones seem to say.

They farm. And they're the only animal we know of that does it.

Certain species of ants use the sugary liquid that aphids secrete as their main food source, and they keep and subdue colonies of aphids in a similar way to human farmers.

Chemicals that the ants emit affect the growth of aphid wings, so they can't escape, and they've even been known to bite them off if this fails.

Ants will also fight off predators such as ladybugs that want to feast on their aphid herd.

Octopuses are just freakishly intelligent


Octopuses: They're probably smarter than your little brother.

The nearest common ancestor that humans and octopuses shared didn't have two neurons to rub together, which means octopus intelligence has developed entirely separately to our own.

So how smart are they? Well, not only can they differentiate between humans, but they'll remember people they don't like and repeatedly squirt water at them. They can open locked boxes, and distinguish between different types of locks.

Not only are they bright enough to conduct tests on, they'll often sabotage the experiments so they don’t work.

Oh, and they might be able to see with their skin, which is not something even the smartest humans can do.

Chimpanzees laugh out of politeness


This chimp doesn't really think you're funny. It's just being nice.

You may have known that chimpanzees laugh, but you probably didn't know that they have distinctly different types of laugh. And that one of these they only ever display when responding to the laughter of others.

This is essentially the chimp equivalent of laughing at your boss's desperately unfunny jokes so you don't get fired , and it's evidence of just how complex the social relationships within a chimpanzee troupe are.

Laughter is essential to strengthening social bonds within the group, and their "social" laughter is shorter than and distinctly different to spontaneous laughter of amusement.

Shrimp goby are seeing-eye-fish


The shrimp goby and pistol shrimp have a nice little thing going here.

The pistol shrimp (a prawn) and the shrimp goby (a fish) spend most of their time together. The shrimp burrow into the ocean floor, making a house for both themselves and the goby that helps keep them safe from predators.

But the blind shrimp have no way of knowing when there's a predator around, and that's where the goby comes in. It will warn the shrimp that danger's present whenever they're outside the burrow by flicking its tail, and both shrimp and fish retreat until the predator (ideally) gives up and goes away.

Neat, huh?

Author: Lachlan Williams; Approving Editor: Paul Stock

Previous

Native animals go wild in the ninemsn office

Next

Woolworth's Macro Organic Peanut Butter

Post Comments