Kanzi, a 39-year-old bonobo, became well-known for his language skills. He can communicate using hundreds of symbols that correlate to words.
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See 14 animals that have shown us their impressive smarts
Measuring intelligence is so complex that it’s impossible to pit one animal’s intelligence against another’s.
Ravens can plan for the future. Octopuses create armor out of coconut shells. Orangutans can “talk” about the past.
Scientific research constantly gives glimpses into new dimensions of animal cognition. But intelligence—which is so complex and encompasses such a wide range of adaptive abilities—remains confoundingly tricky to measure.
“One of the biggest challenges is our inability to comprehend how other species process information,” says Kristina Horback, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis, who studies the cognitive abilities of livestock animals.
Some animals have senses we can’t even understand, such as sharks, which have an acute sensitivity to electrical currents, or insects, some of which can see ultraviolet light.