Moments of Animal Genius That Will Amaze You
Here are some moments of animal genius that will amaze you!Animals
We humans often think that, as a species, we have a monopoly on intelligence here on Earth, but the truth is, our furry, feathered, and finned friends can be pretty darn smart!
They probably won’t be reciting Shakespeare anytime soon, but some of these clever creatures have their own remarkable degrees of intelligence. From problem-solving whales to skateboarding dogs, let's take a look at some moments of animal genius!
Rush isn’t your average dog; far from it, in fact. This Australian Shepherd, who lives in Vasto, Italy with his owner Marco Spadaccini, prefers his four paws on the board and the wind in his fur. This smart pupper is at his best gliding through complex agility courses and showing us humans how it’s done!
And Rush isn’t a one-trick-pup, either. Putting the rest of the dog species and their juvenile roll-overs to shame, this pooch can balance just about anything on top of his snout while skating!
From stacks of shot glasses, to eggs and wine glasses, there’s no limit to what Rush can balance. Well, maybe not your bank balance, he’s not an accountant yet.
Regardless, Rush’s breed, Australian Shepherds, are known for their intelligence and athleticism, with the American Kennel Club advocating them as one of the smartest dog breeds. And joining Rush as an exemplary ambassador for the breed is a fellow Australian Shepherd called Secret, from Bellingham, Washington.
Secret and her human mom, Mary, have amassed over 1.2 million Instagram followers, all thanks to Secret’s not-so-secret brilliance! And among many other hobbies and talents, one of Secret’s favorite pass times is sledding.
Whether she was trained to do this or figured it out by observing as Australian Shepherds are often capable of doing, it’s clear how independent this pooch really is! And when she’s not dashing through the snow, Secret enjoys a game of Jenga!
Experts encourage Australian Shepherd owners to keep their dog’s intelligent brains nimble with puzzles. And with her precise and careful maneuvers, testing the stability of blocks before pulling them out, it seems Secret has a seriously impressive understanding of the game!
While these three wise pups are definitely geniuses, how were they trained to do such things? One popular method, commonly used in training support dogs like bear, is called ‘operant conditioning’, which is similar to bribery!
Essentially, the trainer asks the dog for a behavior, such as ‘sit’, usually luring it into the position with a treat. If the dog actually sits, it is then rewarded with the treat. Over time and repetition, the dog comes to associate the command ‘sit’ with sitting down, and earning a tasty treat, and eventually, you can remove the treat altogether!
As the understanding grows and the dog-to-trainer bond deepens, more complex commands are possible, and before you know it, your pooch is using the toilet with even better aim than you.
Everyone always credits dogs for playing fetch, but the truth is, ravens are just as adept! Albeit with a little less slobber and excitement. It turns out ravens can be as cognitively intelligent as an ape or even a child under the age of 7!
As part of the corvid family, the raven and its relatives, which include crows, magpies, and jays, are renowned for their intelligence, exhibiting a degree of self-awareness, being among the few animals thought to be able to recognize themselves in a mirror.
They’re also highly skilled in puzzle-solving and the use of tools. Which, honestly, is more than we can say for a lot of the humans out there.
The Little Iguana’s Room
Sparky is a wild-caught Green Iguana from the Florida Keys with an ability you’d probably never expect from a reptile: he’s potty-trained! Just take a look for yourself though you will be warned: there may or may not be iguana poop involved.
It’s so gross but at the same time you kinda can’t stop watching. And while Sparky’s toilet training is undoubtedly remarkable, it’s surprisingly not unique to him. In fact, toilet training is pretty common among pet iguanas.
That isn’t ‘toilet’ training in as literal a sense as with Sparky, but rather training them to do their business in a designated spot. According to reptile experts, with a little coaching, rewarding, and repetition, it’s pretty easy to train them to do so.
In fact, iguanas naturally like to do their business in water, as it masks the scent in the wild, so you simply leaving the toilet seat up may be enough to prompt your scaly friend to go number 2.
Who’s at the Door?
Bears showing up at your door is a nightmarish idea for most of us. But for Susan Kehoe, who lives in the mountains of the Highland Lakes in New Jersey, bears at her doorstep is just another ordinary day. Fortunately, these bears can be pretty accommodating if you just talk to them!
Isn’t that the politest bear you have ever seen? Having coached this black bear to close her door with treats over several encounters, there’s something surprising about seeing a usually fearsome beast carry out commands, particularly in such a gentle manner!
But should Susan be so trusting of these wild bears? While it’s said that bear intelligence is comparable to higher primates and are able to be trained using the conditioning methods mentioned earlier, bears are instinctively solitary and very unpredictable creatures.
There’s always the possibility a bear might act on its predatory instincts, and using food to train a wild one, and hence making them associate humans with food, is asking for trouble.
Nobody likes Seagulls, and for good reason. They’re thieves. And with their track record of dive-bombing people’s food, their manners leave a lot to be desired. They are, however, pretty brainy!
In the wild, researchers have observed seagulls stamping their feet on the ground as a way to imitate rainfall. Why? When it rains, worms come up to the surface, as it’s easier for them to move and navigate through moist soil. Seagulls take advantage of this as a way to get some good grub.
However, many modern-day seagulls put their brains to use to hunt for food in a very different habitat: the grocery store. In the video clip below, a seagull not only committed petty theft but also knew to open the bag of Doritos.
Research has indicated that seagulls learn, remember, and even pass on behaviors. And being the great observers that they are, it’s no surprise that they’ve put two and two together: humans enter the big rock with magical opening doors.
Humans leave magical opening doors with food. Therefore, seagull enters magical door, seagull gets food. Either that, or their keen sense of smell navigates them to the source of food.
Either way, once a seagull knows where food sources are plentiful, it will remember, return, and tell its friends too! So, as the gulls continue to spread the word, who knows how bad this bird crimewave will get?!
All about that Bass
You must be pretty special to get a private bass guitar lesson from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ bassist, Flea. And you don’t get much more special than Koko the gorilla! This female western lowland gorilla, who was born in 1971, sadly passed at the age of 46 back in 2018.
But in her lifetime, she demonstrated incredible levels of intelligence that blew the world’s collective minds. Thanks to her gorilla smarts, she proved a dab hand at many hobbies.
She tried to play guitar in the clip below. Take note of how she attempts to place her fingers on the fret and plucks the stings, showing observational skills extending beyond mindlessly strum away.
Much of Koko’s talent is thanks to her carer, Francine Patterson, who devoted her time to nurturing Koko. Patterson even managed to teach Koko a simplified version of American Sign Language!
Patterson claimed that Koko ‘mastered’ sign language with a vocabulary of around 1,000 signs. Thanks to this, Koko was able to express her emotions and ask for things – for instance, at Christmas in 1983, Koko allegedly asked for a pet kitten. When they instead gave her a stuffed toy, she signed ‘sad’, expressing her disappointment.
She later adopted a kitten, who she named ‘All Ball’. Unfortunately, just 5 months later, All Ball escaped Koko’s cage and was killed by a car. Upon learning of this, Koko apparently signed words like ‘sad, frown, and cry’, even letting out a sound similar to a human weeping.
As impressive as Koko’s emotional intelligence clearly is, some sources argue that claiming Koko ‘mastered’ sign language is a little bit of an exaggeration, considering the average human vocabulary is made up of around 40,000 words, compared to Koko’s 1,000 signs.
It’s also worth noting that not a huge amount of scientific data has ever been released about Koko, besides the claims of Patterson, who some critics have suggested would creatively interpret Koko’s signs to have deeper meaning than they actually did.
Regardless of how complex Koko’s communication really was, there’s no denying her intelligence. She was a true case of cross-species communication, learned clever behaviors, and exhibited high levels of emotional intelligence.
Everyone knows that parrots can talk but did you know they can also interpret and participate in music? The same part of their brain that enables them to mimic sound also allows them to understand music, detect a rhythm, and move to a beat.
And one little guy with the voice of an angel is Ollie, the African Grey. He can effortlessly whistle along to the piano! Not only does Ollie manage to successfully reproduce 2 bars of music to pitch perfection, even adding vibrato, but he also creates his own metronome to keep time by producing a clicking sound with his mouth!
Still, the question remains: how and why do parrots mimic sound in the first place? Without teeth, lips, and a palate, which we use to produce our sounds, consonants, and vowels, it seems inconceivable that parrots should be able to mimic our speech.
Just try to produce a B, M, or P sound without your lips touching: impossible, right? So how do parrots do it with a beak? Well, they use a vocal device called the syrinx. This is a muscular, y-shaped structure located at the base of the trachea in their throat. Each branch of the syrinx has a movable valve, which can work independently.
Similar to human burping, suddenly forcing bursts of air up through the trachea allows for the production of plosive sounds, like Ps and Bs, and researchers suggest parrots move their tongues forwards and backwards and adjust their beak openings to finely tune a vowel or sound.
In the wild, parrots imitate the calls made by their families and flocks as a means of communication and keeping the flock unified. As pets, scientists suggest parrots mimic us for the same reason: they want to integrate themselves by learning and reproducing our calls, as they see us as flock members!
Because they are merely imitating sound, words largely have no real meaning to them, although they may have a vague understanding of the context of the words. For instance, when a parrot says: “hello, how are you?”, like most people, they probably aren’t genuinely interested in your well-being.
The parrot more likely understands that phrase to mean “oh look, someone has entered the room”, as it’s a phrase often used in such contexts. Which is still pretty good going for a birdbrain!
We can all agree that elephants are the big friendly giants of the animal kingdom. But it just so happens that they’re incredibly clever too! Research has revealed elephant brains are similar to human brains in both structure and complexity, meaning they’re able to exhibit highly intelligent behaviors, such as grief, mimicry, play, and use of tools.
One particularly clever behavior is their ingenious way of combating sun damage. While they often seek out shade, another common coping mechanism is coating themselves with sand or mud.
The mud aids their normal skin care through providing moisture and helpful bacteria, and once it dries it acts as a muddy barrier between their skin and the sun. So, now you know what to do next time you forget your sunscreen!
But perhaps more impressive is the fact that elephants can seemingly create artwork. Besides snorkeling water, elephants can use their big ol’ trunks for some pretty extraordinary doodles!
While you probably won’t catch a wild elephant commissioning a portrait when guided, they’re able to recreate some incredible artworks, even from memory after enough training. With their cognitive ability to follow instructions, learn, and remember, coupled with their dexterous trunk, elephants can wield a paintbrush like a pro.
Of course, the elephants aren’t coming up with the ideas themselves and are being guided as to what colors and shapes to place, but the true intelligence on show is in the precision with which the paints are applied. One reason elephants might be so receptive to being trained is their brain development.
Most mammals are born with close to fully developed brains, at around 90% of the adult weight, making them more instinctive creatures, equipped for the specific demands of their environment.
Us humans on the other hand are born with around 28%, meaning we’re less instinctive and more open to learning over time. A surprising similarity runs in elephants, as they’re born with just 35% of their adult brain weight.
So, much like us, it’s suggested that elephants rely more on what’s been taught to them, rather than pure instinct, to inform their interactions with the world. So, maybe if we teach them to feel a whole lot of self-loathing and general angst, we’ll end up with an elephant Van Gogh on our hands after all?
Without shells of their own, hermit crabs are essentially born homeless, yet must find one to protect their delicate abdomen. Thankfully, they’ve evolved a genius, though slightly shady way of solving this problem. They beg, borrow, and steal the shells of sea snails, even sometimes killing the owners for their pretty little shells.
As the shells don’t grow, the hermit will continue to shop about for bigger and better shells, or maybe even just shells in the prettiest color that really brings out his eyes. As shells can be scarce and difficult to come by, when a housed hermit dies, it emits a chemical to notify other hermits that a shell has become vacant for them to come use.
While this real estate system is incredibly smart, it is sometimes to their own detriment. Homeless hermits often mistake bits of plastic and garbage as vacant shells, due to human pollution. Consequently, they can become trapped in things like plastic buckets and die.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, that handy chemical that notifies other hermits of a vacant shell, proves not-so handy, as it invites more and more hermits to come and meet their fate in the same death-trap!
Moving on to something a little less bleak now and who better than Sunny the coati?! He lives in Germany with his owner, Nicolle, and like his name suggests, Sunny’s pretty bright! So much so that he’s even gotten quite skilled at a popular game.
Nicolle adopted Sunny back in 2008, and since then, she’s trained him to play Connect 4. And although he did technically win, I’m pretty sure Nicolle let him, as I doubt that he fully understands the aim of the game.
Still, as part of the Procyonidae family, the coati is closely related to the raccoon, which is especially apparent seeing how Sunny uses his dexterous paws to grip and hold items, much like we humans do.
Though these agile claws were evolved for the purpose of climbing and digging, they serve just as well for playing Connect 4, and the mental stimulation given by the game to Sunny’s brain is a pretty big plus for everyone involved!
While coatis aren’t typically domesticated, if nurtured from a young age, they can grow into loving, affectionate pets. And who knows, maybe one day they’ll be smart enough to play Cluedo?!
Octopuses, or octopi, are basically the aliens of the earth. From their slimy 8 legs and lack of bones to their ability to change color, morph their texture and regenerate lost limbs, these slinky ocean creatures can do just about anything.
And added to the list of their otherworldly superpowers, is their ability to fit through almost any size hole. With octopuses commonly reaching 4 feet in length, it’s pretty mindboggling to think that they can fit through holes as small as an inch in diameter!
And with this, they’ve become pretty good escape artists, so much so that zoos often have to weigh the lids of their tanks down with bricks, as to avoid any escapees! Watch the video below showing a particularly adept escape artist breaking free through a tiny hole!
Gross and yet mesmerizing at the same time. The octopus’ lack of bones means they can easily slither and slime their way out of a lot of situations.
In fact, the only thing the octopus has to worry about fitting through a hole is their beak, which is hidden at the center of their eight tentacles. These beaks are lethal weapons, sharp enough to tear through the flesh of prey and tough enough to break clam shells open.
As for their internal organs, octopuses have a lot more flexibility than us humans. Due to their organs being loosely contained, as opposed to our rigidly-organized internal structure, octopuses can easily maneuver and squish down their insides without causing any damage.
It’s somewhat like a half full bag of water: everything inside can interchangeably become rounder or flatter when compressed, without becoming too pressurized and damaging the organs.
And beside all these physical advantages, octopuses are also highly intelligent problem-solvers. They’re actively curious and engage with their environments, quite literally feeling out all potential escape routes.
Incredibly, each of their tentacles has a cluster of nerve cells that can function as a mini-brain, which communicates with the rest to flawlessly coordinate both the planning and execution of an escape attempt. With 8 escape-obsessed mini-brains per octopus, I’d sure hate to be a prison guard at the Cephalopod State Penitentiary!
It’s no secret that whales are smart. And while it’s not exactly like we can have them sit down and take an IQ test, their intelligence can still be recognized in other ways. Among many things, they’re known to be highly social creatures, and research suggests they experience high levels of emotional intelligence, like grief and maternal love.
Not only that, but they’re also astoundingly proficient in the problem-solving department! And while problem-solving sure helps in hunting and survival situations, it can also come in pretty handy in other situations, like when you throw your toys out of the pool.
With just a little bit of simple physics, this beluga whale managed to figure out that shooting a water jet could bounce the object against the wall, back to them. And their genius doesn’t stop there.
Perhaps the most useful superpower whales, toothed whales and dolphins specifically, have at their disposal is echolocation. But what is echolocation and how exactly does it work? This physiological process is used to locate distant or hard-to-see objects, such as prey, by using sound waves.
Whales, for example, use echolocation by bouncing high-pitched clicking sounds off underwater objects. They essentially call out and wait for a response to reflect back to them through echoes, hence the name ‘echolocation’.
They make these sounds by squeezing air through nasal passages near their blowholes. These soundwaves then travel into the forehead, where the melon, aka a big blob of fat, focuses them into a beam.
If the whale’s call happens to hit something, the sound reflects back and is picked up through the whale’s lower jaw and then passed to its ears. This process allows the whale to work out an object’s distance, direction, speed, density and size.
It’s kind of like online shopping, but for whales, as they can decide whether or not to pursue the location of the object, based on the information provided by the echoes.
In using this process, whales are instinctively able to carry out some pretty complex mathematics, as their brains can automatically calculate distance based on the time it takes for the sound to be reflected back.
While this is definitely an innate skill, little is known about whether whales are born with the ability to echolocate, though some experts suggest it’s a skill that is developed over time. Either way, it’s hard not to respect these vastly intelligent creatures for their ability to create a virtual world of sound around themselves.