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  #1  
Old 02-12-2012, 10:01 PM
astro astro is offline
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What is the least intelligent mammal?

Which mammal is generally recognized as the least intellectually adept?

I'm not trying to make this a value judgment as each animal is as evolved and adapted as it needs to be to survive. However, in that context which mammal generally shows the fewest indicators of what we humans interpret to be "intelligence".
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  #2  
Old 02-12-2012, 10:12 PM
Namkcalb Namkcalb is offline
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Well, if we use the Brain weight:Body weight ratio, the hippotamus isn't looking too smart.

The blue whale and other plackton-filterers also have a tiny brain vis a vis its size. Strangely enough, their fish eating cousins, the orcas and dolphins are extremely smart by any measure.
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Old 02-12-2012, 10:26 PM
shijinn shijinn is offline
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generally recognised - stupid cows? i mean, even on PETA's website, the best they can say about cows are that they are able to press a button for food. even goldfish can do that, and more. whatever it is, the likely candidates would be one of the farm animals bred for food and docility.
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Old 02-12-2012, 10:30 PM
GusNSpot GusNSpot is offline
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sheep
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  #5  
Old 02-12-2012, 10:33 PM
heathen earthling heathen earthling is offline
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Koalas are famous for their reduced brains.
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  #6  
Old 02-13-2012, 12:19 AM
Ambivalid Ambivalid is offline
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Last edited by Ambivalid; 02-13-2012 at 12:23 AM.. Reason: Rush Limbaugh/Dittohead humor does not belong in GQ
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  #7  
Old 02-13-2012, 12:36 AM
cornflakes cornflakes is online now
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Sloths?
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  #8  
Old 02-13-2012, 12:42 AM
Senegoid Senegoid is offline
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NM
Last edited by Ambivalid; Today at 01:23 AM. Reason: Rush Limbaugh/Dittohead humor does not belong in GQ
We saw that one coming!
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  #9  
Old 02-13-2012, 12:44 AM
BeaMyra BeaMyra is offline
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My dog has to be at the bottom of the intelligence pile. Cute he is but he's basically a big sack of stupid. Unless it is about food. Then he wises up fast enough
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  #10  
Old 02-13-2012, 03:07 AM
Rachellelogram Rachellelogram is offline
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I nominate the now-extinct Coryphodon, based on its brain/body size ratio. They had "a brain weighing just 3.2 oz and a body weight of around 1,100 lb." They look fairly hippopotamatic in the pictures there.

Tangentially, I don't think humans are even close to being the dumbest mammal. In fact, we're probably too smart for our own good. But we seem to have a strange predilection for exactly the things that are worst for us. More and more food, a fondness for drugs like nicotine/caffeine/opiates, soap operas, more cars and televisions than the number of people living in our home, and an unquenchable desire to consume exponentially more information without benefit or reason (except temporary pleasure). You don't see squirrels or rabbits or cows doing this kind of stupid shit, that's for sure.
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Sloths?
No no, they're just magnificently efficient. Seems pretty smart to me!

Last edited by Rachellelogram; 02-13-2012 at 03:09 AM..
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  #11  
Old 02-13-2012, 03:28 AM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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I don't have a wide experience with mammals. However, every hamster I've had has been pretty dim. We could teach them, somewhat, that certain foods are tasty (our hamsters universally loved raisins, for what it's worth) but as a whole hamsters just don't learn much, and they don't learn quickly. And it's not just their size, or that they're rodents. Rats aren't that much bigger, but rats are noted for being actually fairly bright. Hamsters will repeat behaviors that hurt them every time. Rats will try to figure out a new way of doing things. This is probably why we don't have hordes of wild/feral hamsters that need to be exterminated in our homes.

Now if you want to ask about stupid birds, I'd nominate the domestic turkey. They are damn near too stupid to feed themselves.
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  #12  
Old 02-13-2012, 03:45 AM
Gagundathar Gagundathar is offline
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I was going to go on about stupid birds, but... um... they aren't mammals.

As for mammals, i would say hamsters. They are untrainable. That, in my mind, defines non-intelligent. I am certain that there are less intelligent creatures out there but I have not yet encountered them. Fluffy Bumpkins (hey my wife named her) couldn't even complete a maze with hamster treats at the end.

So hamsters are just dumb.
There.. I've said it!

Now, I must huddle here and wait from a knock at the door from the ASPCA.

The horror... the horror.

Last edited by Gagundathar; 02-13-2012 at 03:45 AM..
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  #13  
Old 02-13-2012, 04:27 AM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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I don't think you'll get a definitive answer on this. There really is no standard metric for saying this animal is smarter than that one.

Absolute brain size and brain to body ratios can somewhat be a guide, but there are animals with what we consider advanced behaviours with small absolute or relative brain sizes e.g. ants, crows, octopuses.

Last edited by Mijin; 02-13-2012 at 04:29 AM..
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  #14  
Old 02-13-2012, 04:31 AM
Alessan Alessan is online now
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I never got the whole brain size/body size ratio as gauge of intelligence thing. Are fat people dumber than thin people? Are amputees smarter?
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  #15  
Old 02-13-2012, 04:53 AM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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Originally Posted by Alessan View Post
I never got the whole brain size/body size ratio as gauge of intelligence thing. Are fat people dumber than thin people? Are amputees smarter?
Well, it's not supposed to be for comparing individuals, it's for comparing different species. And the reason it's thought to be an indicator, is that certain tasks that a brain has to do, will scale with organism size e.g. the bigger you are the more nerves you will generally have.
Having a large brain compared to your body implies there is enough brain capacity for all the "basic" functions (like handling all that nervous input), plus some extra, which may have evolved for more "advanced" behaviours.

But as I said, there are plenty of counter-examples, if we were to take this as an absolute rule. And it could be misleading comparing, say, reptiles to mammals, because some of the mammalian brain may be tied up with functions like temperature regulation.

Whoosh?

Last edited by Mijin; 02-13-2012 at 04:54 AM..
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  #16  
Old 02-13-2012, 05:01 AM
Scumpup Scumpup is offline
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IME ferrets are pretty damned dumb, outside of a nearly supernatural ability to get into stuff their owners wish to keep them out of.
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Old 02-13-2012, 06:06 AM
benbo1 benbo1 is offline
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The North American Celebrity Worshipper. :-)
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  #18  
Old 02-13-2012, 06:19 AM
DrFidelius DrFidelius is online now
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I have heard that manatees score poorly on most standardized tests.
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Old 02-13-2012, 07:17 AM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
Well, it's not supposed to be for comparing individuals, it's for comparing different species. And the reason it's thought to be an indicator, is that certain tasks that a brain has to do, will scale with organism size e.g. the bigger you are the more nerves you will generally have. ...
A huge muscle, say the size of a house, does not necessarily need more processing power to command it than does a tiny one. Note the huge amount of human brain devoted to controlling the muscles of the hands compared to say the thigh muscles. It is a commonly used metric but one that bespeaks to the intellectual laziness of the scientists who used it, as otherwise defining "intelligence" cross species is difficult, other that by defining it in a anthrocentric manner.

Anyway, I vote hedgehog. Not many convolutions there. It is a very primitive mammal that has stuck with the same basic brain form from the days they likely scurried under dinosaurs. They've changed virtually naught at all in 70 million years. They seem to have found intelligence and evolved brains to be a new fanagled thing they don't need.
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Old 02-13-2012, 07:46 AM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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It is a commonly used metric but one that bespeaks to the intellectual laziness of the scientists who used it, as otherwise defining "intelligence" cross species is difficult, other that by defining it in a anthrocentric manner.
As the above implies, the entire issue of defining "intelligence" is heavily colored by human bias, blind spots, assumptions, insecurities, wishful thinking, and poor observation.
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  #21  
Old 02-13-2012, 07:59 AM
Fuzzy Dunlop Fuzzy Dunlop is offline
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Originally Posted by astro View Post
I'm not trying to make this a value judgment as each animal is as evolved and adapted as it needs to be to survive. However, in that context which mammal generally shows the fewest indicators of what we humans interpret to be "intelligence".
I get what you mean here, but I still think it's funny because it reads like you're worried that all the hamsters and hippopotamuses that post on this board would hijack your thread and make it about how we shouldn't judge mammals' value by intelligence. And you just know the dolphins who post here would be making a stink too just out of some weird mammal guilt, even though they're obviously one of the most intelligent mammals.
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  #22  
Old 02-13-2012, 08:07 AM
lieu lieu is offline
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My guess would be that it's probably going to be some grazing herbivore since it doesn't have to outwit anything with its hunting skills and possibly it has enough defenses inherent to its design that again it wouldn't have to outwit a lot of carnivoires trying to kill it. Plus, as mentioned in the OP, it doesn't appear to display an overabundance of intelligent behavior so I throw the 'Rhino' out there.
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  #23  
Old 02-13-2012, 10:21 AM
BigT BigT is online now
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Well, if we're just guessing, how's the sloth? It doesn't have to move quickly, so perhaps it doesn't need much processing power?
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  #24  
Old 02-13-2012, 10:46 AM
SeldomSeen SeldomSeen is offline
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Among domestic animals, probably the sheep. As to world wildlife, Peter Hathaway Capstick, who wrote extensively about African big game declared that the rhinoceros was far & away the dimmest bulb among the large herbivores.
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  #25  
Old 02-13-2012, 11:04 AM
GoodOmens GoodOmens is online now
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Originally Posted by BeaMyra View Post
My dog has to be at the bottom of the intelligence pile. Cute he is but he's basically a big sack of stupid. Unless it is about food. Then he wises up fast enough
Not to rain on your parade, but I have confidence that my dog is stupider than yours. My poor mutt is stupid as a box of hair.
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  #26  
Old 02-13-2012, 02:01 PM
araminty araminty is offline
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When we talk about animal intelligence, one metric often used is "trainability" - the infamous rankings of dog breed intelligence were based on learning a cue in less than five repetitions and obeyed them 95+% of the time.

I've personally trained lots of mammals. (Want a list? OK. Horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, opossums, skunks, squirrels, woodchuck, ferrets, hedgehogs, fruit bats.) All these animals have been capable of being trained, e.g., can recognize an event marker (aka bridge, usually clicker or whistle), that the marker is a result of some aspect of their behavior, to accept a primary reinforcer (treat, usually food) and, to actively seek the reinforcer through modifying their behavior. Does that make sense?

Those animals that fulfil the metric from the dog test the best (short time to learn a cue, consistent performance) were dogs and horses - obviously, they've been selectively bred for trainability for a long, long time. Other domestic species, like goats, rabbits, even ferrets, I've found to be very motivated and relatively easy to train.

The animals I've had to work harder to train include sugar gliders and sheep - these are communal living, commonly preyed upon species, with well-developed "flight" reflexes. Does this mean a sugar glider is less intelligent than a hedgehog? No, just less trainable. In some ways, trainers enjoy the challenge of a so-called "dumb" species - it just means we need to work harder to motivate the animal. My dog breed of choice, basenjis, are right at the bottom of the above list... a border collie would just seem too easy!
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  #27  
Old 02-13-2012, 02:03 PM
MikeF MikeF is offline
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Since no one else has said it, I will. Homo sapiens. What other mammal knowingly uses up its food sources until they are nearly extinct (bison, cod, blue fin tuna) or poisons its own environment (too many to list) to the point where it can no longer live there? I'm no tree-hugger or PETA member but that seems pretty stupid to me.
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  #28  
Old 02-13-2012, 02:25 PM
Kenm Kenm is offline
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Originally Posted by rachelellogram View Post
I nominate the now-extinct Coryphodon, based on its brain/body size ratio. They had "a brain weighing just 3.2 oz and a body weight of around 1,100 lb."
What's that in the universally accepted brain measurement of walnut?
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  #29  
Old 02-13-2012, 02:31 PM
Michael63129 Michael63129 is offline
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Since no one else has said it, I will. Homo sapiens. What other mammal knowingly uses up its food sources until they are nearly extinct (bison, cod, blue fin tuna) or poisons its own environment (too many to list) to the point where it can no longer live there? I'm no tree-hugger or PETA member but that seems pretty stupid to me.
Being too smart is probably more of a reason; after all, if humans were only as intelligent as the other Great Apes, our population and resource usage would probably be similar (several hundred thousand, all in Africa). Of course, the problems you mention are a result of being dumb (as used here, dumb doesn't mean unintelligent), but most, if not all, animals would do the same if given the opportunity (and that does happen, resulting in population boom/bust cycles).
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Old 02-13-2012, 02:34 PM
Derleth Derleth is offline
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Here's a great page with a less biased view on the problem based on neural complexity (as opposed to simply measuring brain size, which is misleading enough with humans and hopeless once you cross species barriers).

Sadly, it's focused exclusively at the top end of the scale, as opposed to the bottom end of the mammalian list. Still, the equations should apply to some extent if we can dig up the relevant data for, say, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, and domestic sheep. (Also, are wild sheep noticeably more intelligent than domestic sheep?)
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  #31  
Old 02-13-2012, 02:42 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is offline
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Originally Posted by heathen earthling View Post
Koalas are famous for their reduced brains.
A little understated: their brain is 0.2% of their body weight. 40% of their skull interior is cerebrospinal fluid. They are kinda like this famous picture.
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  #32  
Old 02-13-2012, 02:49 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
Since no one else has said it, I will. Homo sapiens. What other mammal knowingly uses up its food sources until they are nearly extinct (bison, cod, blue fin tuna) or poisons its own environment (too many to list) to the point where it can no longer live there? I'm no tree-hugger or PETA member but that seems pretty stupid to me.
Nonsense. We eat almost anything, so if we deplete one food source, we've got plenty of others. We are the most numerous species of large mammal on the planet, and we are more geographically dispersed than an other large mammal with the possible exception of the other mammals we domesticated. Our extremely large population is growing almost exponentially.

As for polluting the environment so we can no longer liver there-- what percent of the habitable land has that happened to? .00001% Maybe? If that.

Last edited by John Mace; 02-13-2012 at 02:50 PM..
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  #33  
Old 02-13-2012, 02:53 PM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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Naked mole rats, maybe? Being "eusocial" (hive-like), perhaps individual NMRs do not get taxed with much decision-making, as the superorganism handles a lot of that?
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Old 02-13-2012, 03:06 PM
njtt njtt is offline
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Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
Since no one else has said it, I will. Homo sapiens. What other mammal knowingly uses up its food sources until they are nearly extinct (bison, cod, blue fin tuna) or poisons its own environment (too many to list) to the point where it can no longer live there?
Just about all of them would, given the opportunity, and many have done so when circumstances have allowed. Homo Sapiens, by contrast, is the only species known to be smart enough to realize when it is doing something like this, and to at least consider the possibility of doing something about it.

On the other hand, perhaps homo sapiens is the only species to consistently produce individual dumb enough to think it is clever to suggest that their own species is the dumbest, just because its collective actions do not always reflect ideal rationality.

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Originally Posted by Sailboat View Post
As the above implies, the entire issue of defining "intelligence" is heavily colored by human bias, blind spots, assumptions, insecurities, wishful thinking, and poor observation.
Or, in other words, there is really no sound basis or metric for comparing intelligence across species boundaries. The concept is really only applicable to comparisons between humans (and, God knows, it is vague and crude enough even there), or, in principle, to beings with whom humans could, potentially, have communication at a level of detail and complexity comparable to that provided by human languages. (If we actually found that dolphins do have a language, and learned how to speak and understand it, only then could we say something meaningful about their intelligence.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Namkcalb View Post
The blue whale and other plackton-filterers also have a tiny brain vis a vis its size. Strangely enough, their fish eating cousins, the orcas and dolphins are extremely smart by any measure.
But in absolute terms, a blue whale brain is huge, and it does not really seem to be doing anything very extraordinary with it by way of controlling its body or processing sensory data. It looks as though it ought to have a lot of spare capacity left over for stuff like, say, higher mathematics or whale poetry.

Last edited by njtt; 02-13-2012 at 03:08 PM..
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  #35  
Old 02-13-2012, 03:43 PM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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Well you have to be able to agree on a definition of intelligence that is not just based on seeming human. Do that and it can apply to artificial intelligence too.

I've previously proposed: "the ability to solve novel problems of salience to the individual" but have never been able to build a consensus around it.


Whales not doing anything extraordinary with sensory data? You try keeping echolocative tabs on a variety of allies, enemies, and threats in several cubic miles of water volume! That said it doesn't have fingers to worry about ... (again, a big chunk of our cortices devoted to those little things)
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Old 02-13-2012, 03:59 PM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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Originally Posted by Sailboat View Post
Naked mole rats, maybe? Being "eusocial" (hive-like), perhaps individual NMRs do not get taxed with much decision-making, as the superorganism handles a lot of that?
What fingers and eyes are to humans, apparently the front teeth are to naked mole rats.

And this is cool: apparently becoming a breeder NMR gives one the opportunity to have more brain cells than those who are non-breeders (subordinants).
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  #37  
Old 02-13-2012, 04:05 PM
Senegoid Senegoid is offline
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Originally Posted by araminty View Post
I've personally trained lots of mammals. (Want a list? OK. Horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, opossums, skunks, squirrels, woodchuck, ferrets, hedgehogs, fruit bats.) All these animals have been capable of being trained, e.g., can recognize an event marker (aka bridge, usually clicker or whistle), that the marker is a result of some aspect of their behavior, to accept a primary reinforcer (treat, usually food) and, to actively seek the reinforcer through modifying their behavior. Does that make sense?

Those animals that fulfil the metric from the dog test the best (short time to learn a cue, consistent performance) were dogs and horses - obviously, they've been selectively bred for trainability for a long, long time. Other domestic species, like goats, rabbits, even ferrets, I've found to be very motivated and relatively easy to train.
Karen Pryor, former head dolphin trainer and curator at Sea Life Park (Oahu, Hawaii) wrote regarding training penguins: (Not exact wording, but fairly close, as best I remember it.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karen Pryor in Lads Before the Wind, her adventures at Sea Life Park
[They are dumb...] but active and greedy, and you can train any animal like that.
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  #38  
Old 02-13-2012, 04:12 PM
Gagundathar Gagundathar is offline
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Here's a great page with a less biased view on the problem based on neural complexity (as opposed to simply measuring brain size, which is misleading enough with humans and hopeless once you cross species barriers).

Sadly, it's focused exclusively at the top end of the scale, as opposed to the bottom end of the mammalian list. Still, the equations should apply to some extent if we can dig up the relevant data for, say, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, and domestic sheep. (Also, are wild sheep noticeably more intelligent than domestic sheep?)
The rigor and clear presentation of this makes me more likely to accept his conclusions.
I especially like the concept of EQ.
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Old 02-13-2012, 04:15 PM
Lumpy Lumpy is offline
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The Xenarthra, formerly known as the edentata (anteaters, armadillos, etc.) have really small and primitive brains. As a group they're probably the least intelligent living order of Eutherian ("placental") mammals. Oddly enoug braininess took a while to get established in mammals- the early Cenozoic mammals had far smaller brains than current mammals of similar body size.
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Old 02-13-2012, 04:26 PM
araminty araminty is offline
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The Xenarthra, formerly known as the edentata (anteaters, armadillos, etc.) have really small and primitive brains. As a group they're probably the least intelligent living order of Eutherian ("placental") mammals. Oddly enoug braininess took a while to get established in mammals- the early Cenozoic mammals had far smaller brains than current mammals of similar body size.
A six-banded armadillo called Tonka did pretty well for me, training-wise. He was very food motivated.
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Old 02-13-2012, 04:30 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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There's a good possibility that the winner is extinct.
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:01 PM
astro astro is offline
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I get what you mean here, but I still think it's funny because it reads like you're worried that all the hamsters and hippopotamuses that post on this board would hijack your thread and make it about how we shouldn't judge mammals' value by intelligence. And you just know the dolphins who post here would be making a stink too just out of some weird mammal guilt, even though they're obviously one of the most intelligent mammals.
Seriously? Just look at some of the respondents in this thread that are just dying to lecture me at length about anything resembling the anthropomorphization of intelligence. The only thing stopping them, (and it didn't stop all of them) is my little disclaimer.
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:09 PM
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Elected Senators and representatives?
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:10 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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NM

Last edited by Ambivalid; Today at 01:23 AM. Reason: Rush Limbaugh/Dittohead humor does not belong in GQ
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You're quite correct: political jabs are not permitted in GQ, even if just in a "reason for editing" tag. Don't do this again.

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Old 02-13-2012, 05:17 PM
VOW VOW is offline
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Not to rain on your parade, but I have confidence that my dog is stupider than yours. My poor mutt is stupid as a box of hair.
Perhaps there should be a "Stupid Dog" contest?

We had one VERY stupid dog. Lovable as Hell, but I doubt there were two cells clanging around in his empty skull.

I always said his parents were a rock and a stump.


~VOW
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:20 PM
sisu sisu is offline
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Fundamental Christians.
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:35 PM
Belowjob2.0 Belowjob2.0 is offline
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Surprised no one here said, Possum.

Vicious, ugly, rock stupid. IMHO.
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:54 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
Since no one else has said it, I will. Homo sapiens. What other mammal knowingly uses up its food sources until they are nearly extinct (bison, cod, blue fin tuna) or poisons its own environment (too many to list) to the point where it can no longer live there? I'm no tree-hugger or PETA member but that seems pretty stupid to me.
Yes, but that's willful stupidity, not innate.
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Old 02-13-2012, 07:32 PM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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Seriously? Just look at some of the respondents in this thread that are just dying to lecture me at length about anything resembling the anthropomorphization of intelligence. The only thing stopping them, (and it didn't stop all of them) is my little disclaimer.
One man's "lecture" is another man's "fighting ignorance." You DID post in General Questions, not IMHO.
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Old 02-13-2012, 08:04 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Fundamental Christians.
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sisu, religious jabs, like political jabs, are not permitted in General Questions, and you've been around long enough to know this. Given that I just mentioned the rule against political jabs, I'm going to make this one a warning.

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