Meeting of the (Mammal) Minds

This is a great article in National Geographic called Animal Minds.

Certain skills are considered key signs of higher mental abilities: good memory, a grasp of grammar and symbols, self-awareness, understanding others’ motives, imitating others, and being creative. Bit by bit, in ingenious experiments, researchers have documented these talents in other species, gradually chipping away at what we thought made human beings distinctive while offering a glimpse of where our own abilities came from. Scrub jays know that other jays are thieves and that stashed food can spoil; sheep can recognize faces; chimpanzees use a variety of tools to probe termite mounds and even use weapons to hunt small mammals; dolphins can imitate human postures; the archerfish, which stuns insects with a sudden blast of water, can learn how to aim its squirt simply by watching an experienced fish perform the task.

I can say that my sheep definitely recognize me over other people — although I think it’s my voice, more than anything, that gives me away. However, my sheep do look at my face and make eye contact. Anyway, the article is a worthy read.

3 thoughts on “Meeting of the (Mammal) Minds

  1. interesting stuff, although I haven’t looked at the article yet. The sheep must trust you despite you having a predator face (forward facing eyes). Predator humans make eye contact with predator pets (cats, dogs, wolverines) all the time.

    I want to know how dolphins imitate human postures. Off to read the article….

  2. Okay, I knew Alex had died, but not Betty. I show film of Betty in my classes. And what’s up with the four accidental dolphin deaths? Is this a conspiracy? Dang.

  3. I need to read the article, but this article has really been making the rounds on spindle-spinning sites lately, with lots of comments along the lines of, “What do they mean, sheep can recognize faces? Of course they can recognize faces! What idiots to have not known this! Why, my shetland/jacob/romney/whatever has always…”

    Okay, now I need to read it. But I wonder if the authors have read Bellwether?

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