A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[LINK] On the intelligence of elephants

The Los Angeles Times reports that past suggestions that elephants are actually highly intelligent seem to be correct, for at least some elephants have passed the mirror test.

Cats may try to pick a fight with their image in a mirror. Dogs may bring a gift of food to what they think is a newfound friend. But humans and chimpanzees — and maybe dolphins — have long been thought to be the only species that primp and groom before the mirror because they recognize themselves.

Now elephants can be added to the list, researchers from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and the Wildlife Conservation Society reported Monday in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Three female elephants at the Bronx Zoo in New York examined the insides of their mouths, studied their ears and showed other signs of self-awareness, said Yerkes graduate student Joshua M. Plotnik, a co-author along with Frans B. M. de Waal of Yerkes and Diana Reiss of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Most important, one of the elephants, Happy, used her trunk to touch a mark on her head that she could see only in the mirror — a standard test of self-awareness developed 35 years ago by biologist Gordon R. Gallup Jr.

On a related note, Barbara Gowdy‘s The White Bone–about a community of elephants caught in a land ravaged by famine and hunting–is a good novel indeed.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2006 at 2:53 pm

%d bloggers like this: