Animals, sentient and intelligent beings!

Birds, fish, mammals… are gifted with remarkable intelligence. World Animal Intelligence Day is an opportunity for to remember these often surprising cognitive abilities.

Memory, sense of orientation, facial recognition… The cognitive abilities of animals are numerous and vary according to the species. Overview !

Chickens, parrots, pigeons…

Chickens are endowed with great intelligence, even after having spent their entire lives in cages… Evidenced by the incredible adaptability of “poultry birds” destined for the slaughterhouse and adopted by individuals. Among the adopters or volunteers of the association “Champs libres aux poules”, the hens tap their beaks on the window to make themselves heard, calmly wait for their snack every day at the same time or become depressed after the death of a congener. ” Chickens raised in cages were deprived of everything. And yet when we take them out, it only takes a few seconds for them to peck at the grass, recovering their instincts.marvels Heidi Carneau, founder of the association. After two or three days they have the same behavior as the others “. A fascinating resilience for these animals that have only known a closed environment.

Other birds have remarkable intelligence. Thanks to their “inner compass”, their sense of smell and their visual cues, pigeons can easily orient themselves in space. Thanks to painless scientific studies, it has been proven that their mental agility allows them to perform several tasks simultaneously, but also to sort sets in ascending order, or even to sort batches of geometric figures. Even more incredible: pigeons are physiognomists: they know how to differentiate between hostile and benevolent people!

Without forgetting parrots (parakeets, parrots, lovebirds…) whose intelligence is well known. Unfortunately, they are also coveted “pets” and put up with even more of the captivity imposed on them. Because the more species that are endowed with high cognitive abilities, the more difficult it is for them to tolerate life within four walls (Proceedings of the Royal Society). A scourge that unfortunately affects one in two parrots…

Fish, octopus, sharks…

” THE fish are endowed with complex cognitive abilities says Violaine Colson, a research engineer at the Laboratory of Fish Physiology and Genomics at INRAE ​​(National Institute for Research in Agriculture, Food and the Environment). Recently, researchers at Ben Gurion University in Israel proved the ability of fish to navigate and orient themselves in a terrestrial environment, completely different from their own (Behavioral Brain Research)! Added to this are other surprising skills, such as social learning, memorization of positive or unpleasant events, but also recognition of congeners, or even adaptation to new situations.

The fish are endowed with complex cognitive abilities

V. Colson – Research Engineer (INRA)

Among marine animals, there is one that stands out for its 9 brains and 500 million neurons… The octopus! These neurons are distributed within a network of ganglia, with a central brain and 8 smaller ones embedded in its arms. ” This arrangement allows them to complete tasks with their arms more quickly and efficiently.explains Jon Ablett, curator of the Natural History Museum in London (science and future). Furthermore, while each arm is capable of acting independently – able to taste, touch and move – the centralized brain is also capable of exerting control from above. in peripheral brains.

Sharks also have amazing abilities. Among them: “electro-reception” that allows them to perceive surrounding electrical fields. This “sixth sense” helps them find food, even when the usual five senses are unusable. An advantage for detecting prey, even in total darkness!

Pigs, raccoons, giraffes…

Pigs are playful and affectionate. ©DR

Playful, affectionate, pigs are also very smart! They benefit from an excellent memory that allows them to remember their counterparts or humans, even in the long term. They know how to associate our gestures with ideas and can thus respond to our instructions, like dolphins and great apes. Pigs would be even better than dogs at manipulating a joystick, through the snout, to hit a target on the screen! ” When we see pigs behaving like dogs in families, and we see their intelligence and sensitivity, these images of confined and injured pigs are even more unbearable.laments Reha Hutin, president of the 30 Million Friends Foundation. Nothing can justify this barbarism It is not surprising that 85% of French people want a ban on intensive farming (Barometer Foundation 30 Million Friends / Ifop, 2022), which, however, concerns 95% of pigs raised in our country.

For its part, the raccoon is also a victim of human cruelty: not endemic, it is one of the “invasive alien animal species”, which earned it the classification “likely to cause harm” and, in fact, trapped throughout the year and in anywhere. However, these adorable and affectionate beings are gifted with surprising intelligence! ” Raccoons have been shown to be able to unlock complex locks and even throw pebbles into a container to increase water levels and reach food floating on the surface.reports animal photographer Thomas Prat, who has immortalized many of the species. In the end, nothing too surprising, as the density of neurons present in the raccoon’s cerebral cortex can be compared to that of certain primates! »

Giraffes weave complex social bonds. ©Wolfgang Hasselmann /Unsplash

Last example and not least, if we stick to its size… the giraffe! Threatened with extinction, the species could see its chances of survival increased thanks to the solidarity of its individuals. Because according to an English study published in August 2021, giraffes – mainly females – weave complex social bonds, like elephants, primates and cetaceans (Mammal Review)! “The ‘grandmothers’ giraffes probably play an important role in the survival of the members of the group to which they are related.says Zoe Muller, biologist and co-author of the study, interviewed by CNN. Grandmothers are more likely to be a source of knowledge for the group, while participating in the care of young people “.

If these illustrations are far from exhaustive, they at least have the merit of recalling the intelligence – sometimes misunderstood, often underestimated – of our 30 million friends!


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