Episode #2 of the course “The Smartest Animals on Earth“
Elephants are not only the largest land animal, they also have the largest brain of any land animal on earth. An elephant’s brain is about three times the size of a human’s. Some researchers have claimed they are as intelligent as chimpanzees or dolphins. The part of the brain used for cognitive processing, the cerebral cortex, is as complex in an elephant as in chimpanzees or dolphins. Elephants have been known to display complex behaviors such as using tools, mourning their dead, and mimicking the sounds of humans and other animals.
Elephants have a long history of working relationships with humans in Asia and parts of Africa. They have been used as beasts of burden, and it is widely known that elephants can be taught a variety of tricks. Because their incredibly dexterous trunks naturally manipulate tools, elephants have even been taught to paint.
They can also recognize different musical melodies and take them as cues. The saying “an elephant never forgets” is an example that shows the extent and sharpness of their memory—elephants can be taught to respond to dozens of commands and perform as many tricks. They remember specifics of events that happen decades after the event, and they recognize people they haven’t seen for years.
Elephants’ behaviors as social animals include excellent communication skills, emotional responses, and acts of kindness, altruism, and play. Complex interactions, such as mourning and attempting to bury their dead, are social behaviors seen in elephants that are not demonstrated widely throughout the animal kingdom.
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