Nature: All things bright and beautiful

Scientists are arguing that dolphins are so clever they should be treated like humans. But why stop there? Simon Usborne salutes the smartest species

A A A

An extraordinary council of marine mammals was clicking late into last night to consider the future of cetacean species after human scientists proposed a declaration of rights for some of the world's smartest animals...

...Well, if they're that clever, they would be, right? A group of biologists and philosophers said at a conference in Vancouver this week that dolphins and whales were so smart they deserved to be treated as "non-human persons". But why stop there? Nature is overrun with over-achievers who threaten the supremacy "human persons" earned mainly by killing things and inventing calculators. Let's take a moment to marvel at their staggering feats and brilliant brainpower.

1. Elephants

They have good memories but have also been observed using tools and showing empathy, evidence of a higher form of intelligence.

2. Pigeons

These pestilent crumb munchers can identify themselves in mirrors and distinguish between objects.

3. Crows

Bird-brained but brilliant crows can place nuts in streets to be cracked under cars, retrieving the spoils after the traffic lights have changed.

4. Horses

Clever Hans wowed early 20th-century audiences with feats of arithmetic. A commission later found the German horse, while clever, was no genius.

5. Dolphins

Bottlenoses off Brazil drive fish towards fishermen and then swim away, nabbing lunch as they go.

6. Chimps

Ayumu makes his scientist handlers look stupid. When shown numbers on a screen for half a second, the Japanese chimp can then trace their position in perfect sequence.

7. Pigs

Sows in Essex have learned to "borrow" the electronic collars of other pigs to gain cheeky seconds from their computerised feeding system.

8. Dogs

Uggie, The Artist star, is a master of tricks but can't out-smart Chaser, a collie from South Carolina, who has learnt the names of 1,000 objects.

9. Rats

They can navigate mazes and trip levers for food but scientists in Los Angeles showed in 2006 that rats can also distinguish cause from coincidence.

10. Octopuses

Paul, the octopus who predicted results during the 2010 World Cup, wasn't psychic but his kind can open jars or valves to their tanks (one flooded a Santa Monica aquarium).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Lead Application Developer

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am current...

Year 3 Welsh Teacher vacancy in Penarth

£110 - £120 per day + Travel Scheme and Free training: Randstad Education Card...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Male Behaviour Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz