Scientists clash over how to measure animal intelligence: brain volume, brain organization, numbers of neurons… :
It used to be: Dog vs. cat, Who’s smarter? Now it’s Bird vs. reptile: Who’s smarter? Experts on the fascinating world of animal intelligence are locked in a debate over whether number of neurons or brain volume indicates intelligence (cognitive capacity):
In previous work, [Pavel] Němec and colleagues showed that birds have high neuronal densities. “They basically compensate, with these densely packed neurons, [for] the fact that they have relatively small brains in absolute terms, but they have just as many neurons as mammals,” he says. But they didn’t know whether that was true of reptiles as well. In the new study, the researchers found that reptiles have very low neuronal densities, with an average neuron number 20 times lower than that of birds or mammals of similar body size.SOPHIE FESSL, “REPTILES ARE THE REAL BIRD BRAINS” AT THE SCIENTIST (MARCH 22, 2022)
So that measure would favor the birds, But some don’t want number of neurons to simply replace brain size as a simple measurement…
Might there be another way of looking at it? From recent reports about bird smarts in the science literature, here’s the standard reptiles must beat or match:
➤ Australian magpies outwit scientists by helping each other remove tracking devices:
During our pilot study, we found out how quickly magpies team up to solve a group problem. Within ten minutes of fitting the final tracker, we witnessed an adult female without a tracker working with her bill to try and remove the harness off of a younger bird.
Within hours, most of the other trackers had been removed. By day 3, even the dominant male of the group had its tracker successfully dismantled.DOMINIQUE POTVIN, “ALTRUISM IN BIRDS? MAGPIES HAVE OUTWITTED SCIENTISTS BY HELPING EACH OTHER REMOVE TRACKING DEVICES” AT THE CONVERSATION (FEBRUARY 21, 2022)
PBS, offers a detailed but inconclusive discussion about what the birds could have been thinking. But the main point is that they were able to perceive the situation clearly enough to act in concert to remove the trackers at all.News, “Are birds, with more neurons, really smarter than reptiles?” at Mind Matters News (March 24, 2022)
Takehome: Scientists clash over how to measure animal intelligence:… Taking all that into consideration, to beat the birds, the reptiles must outdo an impressive list of recently noted accomplishments. Will the reptiles win?Match? Stay tuned?
You may also wish to read: Spiders are smart; be glad they are small Recent research has shed light on the intriguing strategies that spiders use to deceive other spiders — and prey in general. Invertebrates like spiders and octopuses can be smarter than we used to think and we are only beginning to discover their many strategies. (Denyse O’Leary)
Even lizards can be smart. If you catch them at the right time. But can we give machines what the lizard has by nature? What is it that we want machines to be and do under our guidance that these—often seemingly strange—life forms are and do spontaneously? The life forms do those things to stay alive. Does it matter then that machines are not alive?