One standout of humans is our remarkable cognitive skills, which allow us to remember things, think critically, reason, hold attention, solve problems, read and learn.
Humans can also communicate using speech — a trait that has traditionally been used to separate mankind from other animals.
However, researchers are finding that what constitutes intelligence for humans may not necessarily translate to animal intelligence.
They are also speculating that humanlike intelligence may not just be a product of the human evolutionary lineage that took millennia to develop but could instead be a convergent evolutionary trait that evolves independently in distantly related organisms.
One important trait that may act as supporting evidence for this theory is the relatively large brain sizes that are shared by humans, dolphins, elephants, and chimpanzees.
These four species are thought to be the most cognitive out of millions on Earth.
Here is how brain functionality in these four species compares and differs.
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Chimpanzees are humans’ closest living relatives, so unsurprisingly, they are very smart.
Even though humans possess a brain that is three times larger than a chimp’s, studies have shown they can outperform us in memory tasks.
Chimps are also capable of acting intelligently in both an independent and community setting.
For example, they can form paramilitary patrol parties and hunting parties, shift their alliances to serve their own interests, and band together to overthrow an alpha.
They can also create and use tools for hunting, thus enhancing their diet — a very advanced skill.
Elephants possess the largest brain of any land mammal (about 3-4 times larger than the human brain and with three times as many neurons).
Elephants are capable of many remarkable cognitive behaviors including making tools with their trunks, having incredible memory function, and displaying empathy.
Elephants also mourn their dead, can understand human body language and can work together to solve puzzles, according to researcher Joshua Plotnik from the University of Cambridge in England.
Dolphins are easily one of the most intelligent animals in the world and that is mainly due to their incredibly large brain.
Bottlenose dolphins have bigger brains than humans (1600 grams versus 1300 grams), and they also have a brain-to-body-weight ratio greater than great apes do.
A dolphin’s neocortex (the part of the brain where higher cognitive functioning is thought to originate from), in particular, is highly developed when compared with other animals.
And their brain’s neocortical gyrification (a term for the folding of the cerebral cortex) is even more advanced than any primate’s.
“These mammals recognize themselves in the mirror and have a sense of social identity. They not only know who they are, but they also have a sense of who, where, and what their groups are,” Lori Marino, a senior lecturer in neuroscience and behavioral biology at Emory University said.
“They interact and comprehend the health and feelings of other dolphins so fast it is as if they are online with each other,” she added.
The brains of humans, elephants, gorillas, and dolphins are relatively large.[/caption]
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