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).

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea