Elephants: Do Giant Brains Mean More Smarts? | Animal IQ

From PBS Terra.

Elephants are one of the most majestic and beloved megafaunas on our planet, but are they as intelligent as they’re portrayed in books, movies, and television?
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The mantra, “Elephants never forget,” is so ingrained in popular culture that most people accept it as fact, but memory is just one facet of intelligence. African elephants are known to recognize groups of humans, to test electric fences with their tusks to avoid injury, and (of course) can remember paths to resources passed down to them decades earlier. But, can elephants cooperate to solve a puzzle? How good are they at understanding themselves and their place in the savannah? What does an elephant really know?

On Animal IQ we dig into the research and talk to the experts to find out just how smart animals appear to be. We then use that knowledge to fill in our AIQ Rubric across five domains of intelligence: Social, Rational, Awareness, Ecological, and our own intelligence X-Factor. Every animal is clever, but their talents vary based on their evolution, biology, values, adaptations and environment. We hope y’all learn how each of our animals tick on Animal IQ!

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You can also seek out our experts and hosts here:
:: Think Elephants International ::
Website: https://thinkelephants.org
:: Dr Natalia Borrego ::
Instagram: https://instagram.com/untamedbiologist
Lion Lab website: https://lioncenter.umn.edu/natalia-borrego/
:: Trace Dominguez ::
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tracedominguez
Instagram: https://instagram.com/tracedominguez
YouTube: https://youtube.com/tracedominguez


The elephant brain in numbers
What explains the superior cognitive abilities of the human brain compared to other, larger brains? This finding supports the hypothesis that the larger absolute number of neurons in the human cerebral cortex (but not in the whole brain) is correlated with the superior cognitive abilities of humans compared to elephants and other large-brained mammals.

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) display remarkable olfactory acuity in human scent matching to sample performance
Habituated African elephants were trained to discriminate and match human odors.
African elephants displayed no loss of working memory, and successfully discriminated against target odors. African elephants also discriminated between related human individuals spanning three generations and including sibling pairs.

Do elephants show empathy?
Elephants show a rich social organization and display a number of unusual traits. They have the potential to reveal signs of empathic understanding. They’re capable of diagnosing animacy and goal-directedness and are able to understand the physical competence, emotional state, and intentions of others when they differ from their own. We argue that an empathic understanding of others is the simplest explanation of these abilities, and discuss reasons why elephants appear to show empathy more than other non-primate species.