If you’ve ever read the book, or seen the film, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, then you might recall that it cited dolphins as being smart enough to vacate the earth before it was blown up (“so long and thanks for all the fish”).
When it comes to high IQ, dolphins are undeniably up there as one of the most intelligent marine dwellers around. Why so smart? Well, they successfully use teamwork to round up their fish suppers. They also love playing and will happily indulge in a game of seaweed tag or toss the puffer fish and of course there’s that enigmatic smile that says they know a secret that we don’t….
Another smarty pants sea resident has to be the octopus, who clearly has it all sussed out. Why so brainy? Well, octopus are able to rapidly change their colouring to blend in with their surroundings; some species can also mimic other creatures, such as fish or sea snakes to fool their predators. They’re not beyond joining in with other species to bag a snack either – octopus work with groupers to hunt fish – the groupers chase the fish to the reef and the octopus flushes them out with its tentacles – shared snack success…
Of course, the sea isn’t the only place you’ll find brainiacs – there are some bright birds flying around up there and one such is the parrot – not only can they learn to mimic human language, but they can actually understand what they’re saying too! Why so bright? Well parrots generally have a long life span for a bird and so they’ve got plenty of time to develop their brains and figure things out. They’ve been spotted using date stones to grind up shells as a source of calcium. The males then regurgitate this to give as a pressie to their mate – mmm think I prefer flowers myself!
Parrots aren’t the only avian academics – the crow family are a clever crowd too. In fact they’ve been known to outsmart a young child. Why so perceptive? Well, where there’s a will, there’s a way – crows will put hard-to-crack nuts onto roads and wait for an obliging passing car to crack the shells open for them – beats struggling with those nut crackers!
Look up into the trees for further smarties –our close cousins, the chimpanzee. Why so clever? They learn life skills from their elders and there’s no rush, because as many live to their 80s, they get to grow old and wise. Chimpanzees are ingenious at using tools and will select a twig that is the just the right length to scratch that annoyingly itchy back! Ahhh….
Pigs’ porcine perception tends to go largely unnoticed, but these guys are on a par with our chimpanzee chums. Why so sharp? Well pigs can outwit their fellow herd mates – if a smaller pig knows where there’s some grub going, it will do it’s best to keep this to itself so that it can get to have a good nosh before the bigger pigs wade in to snuffle it all up – wink, wink, oink, oink, say no more!
Elephants must surely top the scales when it comes to good memories. There isn’t much these sage guys forget. Why so wise? Matriarch elephants remember where all the water holes are in their territory to ensure her herd won’t go thirsty. Elephants never forget a face either, especially if it’s one that’s upset them – so best behave! They’re sensitive souls too, remembering those in their herd who have died and going back on the same day each year to pay their respects, may even shedding a tear – sniff!
As far as canny critters go, the raccoon ranks right up there! They’re quick witted and able to suss out solutions in no time. Why so shrewd? Racoons are simply great at overcoming obstacles when they’re out to find dinner and will quickly break into racoon-proof bins to get to their prize. They’re clever with their hands too and have even been known to learn how to unpick locks – maybe that’s why they wear that mask…
You need a big brain for big ideas, right? Wrong! Portia, the jumping spider’s minute brain packs a punch! Portia can prey on much larger spiders by cleverly plucking the strands of their web to make them think they’ve caught their next snack; then when they come over to investigate, Portia pounces and they become lunch instead! Why so brilliant? Portia has learnt different strategies for the various species of spiders she eats: some she gently plucks the web to mimic a small fly, not worthy of too much attention and when the spider wanders over – wham! Other times she will shake the web more violently as if the wind is disturbing it – this distracts the spider and wallop! Brainy spiders come in small packages!
We couldn’t leave out man (and woman’s) best friend – the dog. Why so astute? These clever canines are able to read our body language and tone of voice, meaning they can be trained to respond to commands, but more than that, they appear to have immense intuition and are able to discern our moods and behaviour. They can be crafty too – if another dog is hogging their favourite sunny snoozing spot, they might pretend to bark at a non-existent stranger in the distance, sidling in when the other dog gets up to investigate – sneaky!
I guess we should mention ourselves too – after all humans are decidedly the most intelligent beings on the planet aren’t they – or so we say – wonder what these guys think about that though? ……