Smart “Dumb” Animals

There are many recognized “smart” animals in the world such as an African Grey that has the intelligence of a 3 year old human child; the widely known chimpanzees that are found passing down their “culture” and teaching younger generations how to use certain tools.  Many animals that are already commonly accepted as smart are discussed as being smart almost to an exhausting level!  However, there are few discussions about the animals that live around us that also exhibit similar levels of intelligence.  Most of these animals are thought of as being mindless or clueless as they are only living based on instinctual responses, but you will be surprised!  Here are a few of these smart “dumb” animals that live around us.

Pigeons are EVERYWHERE.  They defecate on your just washed cars.  They defecate on your children and grandparents.  They defecate on the one spot of the bench you decided to sit on.  They are vermin and deemed as “rats of the sky” as they can spread diseases with their massive numbers.

Pigeons are smarter than you think.

Pigeons are smarter than you think.

However, despite being the “rats of the sky“, they are actually very intelligent!  Pigeons have a cognitive ability that is considered as essential to even the way our (humans) own intelligence works!  They have the cognitive ability to differentiate sets of objects from one another.  For example, humans are able to look at cars and trucks and be able to note that they are different.  As in, pictures with two cars vs pictures with a car and truck, and we are able to determine that they are indeed either two cars, or a car and a truck.  Although this sounds super simple, it requires abstract thinking.  Abstract thinking is a concept that is essentially the “backbone of our thinking”.  On top of the fact that pigeons can exhibit abstract thinking, they can also recognize themselves in the mirror!  The scientific community use self recognition in front of a mirror as a test for awareness and intelligence.  There are few animals that can recognize themselves in the mirror.  Even dogs can not recognize their own reflection, but these pigeons can!

Spiders are creepy crawlers that are mindless and extremely viscous.  They will suck out the innards of their prey after encasing them in an indestructible coffin made of spider webs.  They are considered freaky arachnids that definitely don’t think and live based on instinct.  Non-intelligent, or intelligent, these adjectives and the word spiders can’t possibly go hand in hand!

Photo Credit: Donna Garde, Texas Parks & Wildlife

Photo Credit: Donna Garde, Texas Parks & Wildlife

Oh really?  Sadly, recent studies have shown that spiders are actually a lot smarter than you think!  Spiders despite being known as solitary and cannibalistic can actually be very sociable.  In times of stress (such as after a storm), spiders can bunch together in the millions!  These sociable spiders cover trees (as in sections of forests) with the web of millions of spiders to catch and eat human prey!

Apart from the sociable aspect where a certain level of intelligence is required to survive together, jumping spiders have shown the cognitive ability of learning via trial and error!  In an experiment, Portia labiata (a species of jumping spiders) was tasked with crossing a body of water.  When scientists used waves to push the spider back to its starting point, the spider would change tactics!  It would never try something that failed before, and always try something new until it was able to cross!  These tiny monsters are capable of learning!

Able to learn from trial and error.

Jumping spiders are able to learn from trial and error.

After each failed attempt at hunting, or doing anything really, it will learn to never do it again and instead attempt something new!  Now that’s creepy!  If somehow these spiders banded together and found a way to hunt and eat humans… could we stop them?  Probably, we will be able to stop them.  But how many times will we be able to stop them before they figure out a way to get us for good?!!

Goldfish are fish mistakenly known for their lack of intelligence.  Or at least their lack of ability to remember!  But… who started saying these things?  Goldfish actually have surprising memory and are even able to learn from each other!

Gold Fish have longer memory retention and can teach each other

Gold Fish have longer memory retention and can teach each other

In an experiment, a goldfish was placed in a tank with a net that had a small hole.  The fish eventually learned where the hole was and escaped the net successfully.  After a full year, the same fish was placed into the same tank, and was immediately able to swim out of the net successfully.  This suggests that goldfish have longer memory retention than previously believed!  An even more amazing ability is the ability to teach other fish!  When a wild fish is taken and placed in a tank with captive fish, the wild one is able teach the captive fish about predators recognition and how to survive alone.  In the same experiment, the scientist noted that one trained fish could teach an entire population of captive fish!  Just imagine, a goldfish preaching the ways of survival to the others as it is the “chosen one” destined to save its brethren (a potential movie idea? Pixar? Disney? Let me know!)

These animals are just a few of the many actually smart “dumb” animals!  Next time you come across a jumping spider, let it learn that you’re not to be messed with (maybe it’ll never come back).  Next time you see a pigeon pooping on your car, it did it on purpose.  Next time you see your pet goldfish, I hope you take better care of it!  And finally, next time you come across an animal/insect, don’t kill it, free it.  Of course, unless it’s an invasive species, then by all means (do it!)…. but that’s an article for next time!