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Why These Animals Are Smarter Than You

Art by Joleen Cardoza

From the fluffiest animals to the scaliest ones, misconceptions about animals have been around for centuries. These ideas have plagued our society for too long, controlling the way we act towards these innocent creatures. Are the “facts” you’ve been taught only the surface of what these animals are? Terms like “bird brain,” and “one-trick pony” have been thrown around to belittle the intelligence of animals when they are in fact a lot smarter than you. Here are just a few animals whose intelligence is often misconstrued:

Credit to Mckenna Sheldon

1) Genus Corvus

Genus Corvus refers to the species of birds composed of crows, ravens, and rooks. Crows happen to be considered one of the smartest animals in the world. One example of this is that they have been known to remember human faces for years and teach their children to recognize them too. In one experiment, researchers wore masks and captured, then released, several crows. It was observed that crows didn’t react to regular pedestrians, but when someone wore the same mask, they sent out warning caws, even years after the capture. The scary part about this is that if crows feel threatened by your presence and start attacking you, the only way to stop this is to change your route, dress differently, or even avoid that area altogether. Ravens have also been proven to possess extreme amounts of intelligence. Can Kabadayi and Mathias Osvath, researchers from Sweden, set up a task that tested ravens’ abilities to prepare and think of the future. In the task, they were given an array of tools and a problem to solve. They demonstrated the ability to remember the use of these tools when tested almost a day later and chose the correct objects to solve the problem again. Previously, this skill was only observed in humans and apes. Not only that but during the experiment, ravens exhibited the ability to barter and trade with the scientists. Many people who regularly feed crows found out that sometimes the animals leave behind “gifts” such as rocks, sticks, and shiny objects.

Credit to @overture_creations on Unsplash

2) Raccoons

Ah yes, raccoons. Along with many other animals on this list, the misconception about raccoons is that they are dirty scavengers with no care for the rest of the world. Although this is somewhat true, city-dwelling raccoons are considered exceedingly smart by scientists. The intelligence of raccoons can be shown in puzzles. This was proven by ethologist H.B Davis who gave raccoons a series of locks to solve in the early 1900s. The locks included a lot of hard-to-navigate mechanisms such as levers, buttons, and latches with a treat inside for motivation. They were able to solve 11 of the total 13 locks. This phenomenon can be credited to humans; raccoons in the city are forced to overcome many man-made obstacles daily and thus the problem-solving ability of raccoons increased. The obstacles that they face can be crowded intersections, finding food, and avoiding animal catchers. Not only this but they have been proven to learn and adapt to their surroundings. This means that they understand the resources humans provide and have learned how to use them. Their intelligence is evolving, which I personally believe is a very alarming fact; they can probably take over society if they wanted to! Another disturbing fact is that raccoons can survive in almost every area on earth as long as there is water, which contributes to the taking over society thing.

Credits to Ellen van Deelen

3) Rats

To end off with a good note, rats are known for being disgusting creatures, even being linked as one of the root causes for the spread of the black plague. By now it should be obvious that many animals blamed for being dirty are quite intelligent. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing it, so instead of bragging about how smart rats are, let’s learn about how rats can play hide and seek. In scientific experiments, they were described to be searching for the hiding humans during seeking, and in hiding, they were to stay in a place until found by their scientist companions. They were also shown to understand that in hiding they should be silent and contrarily, in seeking they were quite vocal, even making chattering noises suggestive of a triumphant “found you!”. Although rewarded most of the time with treats, scientists wanted a “more natural response” and instead rewarded them with social interaction such as petting and playful roughhousing. There was also evidence suggestive that they weren’t playing for the reward, but rather for the fun. During the activity, they were often seen doing hops of joy and being very vocal about their excitement.

Animals are commonly classified as being a lot dumber than humans. In reality, humans' intelligence is measured on a much broader scale than our furry and scaly companions. Animals surviving on their own in the wild is much different than humans learning calculus on a Tuesday morning. To be fair, most of the animals on this list are a lot more capable than half the people here at Eagle Rock (I will not elaborate). Not to mention that crows, raccoons, and rats take residence in places all around LA. Underestimating their ability should be the last thing you do!


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