• Question: What is the cleverest animal you have ever come across?

    Asked by applecheese to Anthea, Chloe, Kevin, Michel, Sean on 17 Nov 2014.
    • Photo: Chloe Kinsella

      Chloe Kinsella answered on 17 Nov 2014:

      One funny story came to mind when I read this question. I was running experiments in our labs aquarium using crabs. I placed two crabs in each tank and covered each tank with netting to stop them from escaping. The next day I came in and I noticed some crabs were missing. I searched the whole room and couldnt find them anywhere. Strange I thought! Until another scientist told me that there were crabs spotted down the corridor. The crabs had cut the netting, climbed out of the tank, down off the shelf, over to the door, waited for someone to open the door and made their escape down the corridor! I was amazed at how intelligent they were. I often wondered after was there one crab acting as a ring leader, or was it a group effort!

    • Photo: Sean Kelly

      Sean Kelly answered on 17 Nov 2014:

      At the beach, I have seen crows demonstrating how clever and inventive they are. Crows know that the mussels on the shore are a good source of food but their beaks aren’t strong enough or specially adapted to open the hard mussels. However, being clever crows, that hasn’t stopped them! The crows pick up the mussels and fly high over the road, eventually letting them drop to smash open on the road below. This takes a lot of practice and effort to eventually get the mussel open but the meat inside is an energy rich reward that is worth the effort.

      I have also seen footage of crows doing a similar thing with nuts such as walnuts. However walnuts are so hard that simply dropping them onto a hard surface won’t break them open. Instead the crows drop the nuts onto the zebra crossing on the road and wait for a car to drive over the nut and crack it open. But the crows also know the traffic is dangerous so they actually wait until they see ‘the green man’ until they walk out onto the road to collect their prize. Brilliant!

    • Photo: Anthea Lacchia

      Anthea Lacchia answered on 17 Nov 2014:

      Hmm I think bottle nosed dolphins are incredibly clever!
      Of course one has to clarify what clever means: if we take intelligence to mean learning information and using the information that you’ve learned ,then cephalopods, including squid and octopus are really smart! People looked at the different techniques they used to open clams and were surprised by the number of ways and the way in which octopuses switched method according to different situations.
      Turns out that octopuses can solve puzzles, play, navigate through mazes and has a good short-term memory. They also have big brains and different personalities!
      BTW I study cephalopods (fossil ones) so I’m biased! 😉

    • Photo: Kevin Healy

      Kevin Healy answered on 17 Nov 2014:

      Simliar to Sean I have seen crows showing there problem solving skills when it comes to opening tricky food like nuts. While waiting for a dart I saw a crow repeatedly try to drop a bone onto the tracks to crack it (it was trying to get at the bone marrow inside which is full of energy). After a few go’s it placed it gently on the tracks and was presumably waiting for the next train. Unfortunatly I had to take that train to get to work so il never know if the crow got his meal!