Animal minds: How animals think.

March 11, 2008 | By | 1 Reply More

National Geographic has just published a terrific article summarizing the many ways in which animals think.   Here’s the article.  You can watch a short accompanying video on this topic of animal cognition here.

I like the approach to both the article and the video.  They are both centered around large beautiful portraits of many of the animals discussed, including Azy the orangutan, now-deceased Alex, the (famous) gray parrot, Kanzi, the (also famous) bonobo, Betsy the border collie, JB the giant Pacific octopus (an invertebrate that exhibits play behavior), tool-using New Caledonian crows, and an unnamed cichlid (a type of fish that is surprisingly savvy about social rank).  Even earthworms make a cameo appearance, based upon their ability to carefully select the right kind of leafy matter to block their tunnels.

I found the information to be clearly presented and startling, even though I was already familiar with many of these animal accomplishments.  Seeing these demonstrations of animal intelligence gathered in one article, accompanied by these wonderful portraits, brings home Darwin’s conclusion that the diversification of species has common roots; that there is, indeed, a biological unity of all life. 

The take-away message from the National Geographic article: “A whole range of animal studies now suggest that the roots of cognition are deep, widespread, and highly malleable.”

I can’t say enough good things about National Geographic.  In a perfect world, every household would have a subscription to National Geographic.


Category: Evolution, Meaning of Life, Psychology Cognition, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Skblllzzzz says:

    "Chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas have been taught to use sign language"

    From the documentaries I saw on the subject it was clearly the other way round. The researchers realised that the apes used sign language among each other, but at first this was not recognised as such because it was being used in a very fast and fluid manner and easy to miss.

    As soon as the researchers realised the apes were using sign language (and had been all along), they set out to learn the apes' signs for themselves in order to communicate with them in their own language.

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