A Smithsonian article asks, “Did the Evolution of Animal Intelligence Begin With Tiktaalik?”:
Human intelligence is unique on the planet, and even by a generous definition of language, only a few mammals and birds seem to have mastered it. Simon Conway Morris of Cambridge, England, author of Life’s Solution, believes that evolution inevitably converges on certain traits, including intelligence. The octopus, which can manipulate objects with its arms and solve problems, is an example of an intelligent animal whose ancestors (as far as we know) never lived on land. But it’s hard to imagine anything like our technology developing underwater.
The emergence of intelligence remains a mystery, Benton says: “Arguably, a coral reef is equally complex as a forest. But why primates developed big brains to navigate around and find food, but not, say, clown fish—I couldn’t say.”
The thesis of this article seems to be that land is more favourable than water to the development of intelligence. But that’s just not clear.
As the article itself notes, octopuses are quite intelligent. So, one might add, are dolphins and whales, land animals that quite happily returned to the water. And human intelligence is an outlier by orders of magnitude. If you leave it out, what would the picture look like?
Anyway, why Tiktaalik? Why not the much older tetrapods whose trackways were found recently?
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