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All Trunks on Deck

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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If I asked you to name the animal that was most human-like, you’d probably say chimpanzee, right? It’s a good answer: we are close to them on the evolutionary tree, and our genomes are about 95% identical.

But if you limited the comparison to ‘high-level’ behaviors of humans—like feeling empathy, mourning the dead, or cooperating with others—then you’d find a lot of non-primates that are surprisingly similar to us. For example, like ours, the

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brains of humpback whales contain spindle cells, neurons that are thought to be involved in advanced thinking, self-awareness and communication. Dolphins can categorize objects, learn an artificial language, and recognize themselves in a mirror, according to some studies .

All Trunks on Deck-elephants.jpg
Are you smarter than an elephant? (CCBYSA: SuperJew)

Then, of course, there’s the wise old elephant. Loads of studies attest to the elephant’s keen mental abilities, but I want to point out a new one that’s particularly cool. Scientists have demonstrated that two Asian elephants will patiently work together to get a sweet snack—even without any previous training. The study was published earlier this month in the

.abstract"> Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .

You can read more about exactly how the researchers set up this clever experiment (and see a video!) at Wired Science .