Culture & Entertainment

5 amazing animals

Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

5 amazing animals

Dolphins are extremely intelligent mammals We've put ourselves at the top of the food chain and have conquered just about every inch of the globe. But I think all of us can admit humans have their shortcomings. We could probably even learn a thing or two from the animal kingdom, like these five creatures that demonstrate impressive abilities and behaviours worthy of any human's awe. Whales I touched on the documentary Blackfish in a November blog about the SeaWorld float that appeared in Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. One month later, the film still haunts me. Why? Watching Tilikum's orca pod go to amazing lengths to protect its young was awe-inspiring and heartbreaking all at once. The whales split up into two groups in an attempt to outwit hunters in pursuit of Tilikum, redirecting them away from the youngest pod members. When the hunters caught on, adult orcas continued to protect him, even when it resulted in their deaths. We see this self-sacrifice time and time again when whales become beached. Their pods end up stranding themselves on land for fear of abandoning pod members. When maternal orcas mourn for their babies that have been taken away from them, it evokes the same depth of grief seen in human mothers who lose their offspring. But the "it takes a village" approach to protecting our young is a ship that's sailed for the most part in the human world. Meerkats Further proof that animals aren't just out for themselves can be found in meerkat societies. These desert mammals contribute to fully cooperative communities, where altruism and selflessness reign supreme. Their harsh habitat is dangerous for a species found at the bottom of the food chain, and a communal existence helps meerkats withstand water scarcity and predators. Additionally, it's common for meerkats to exercise random acts of kindness and demonstrate generosity— they even feed pups other than their own offspring. Prairie dogs They may be considered rodents by many, but biologists determined the language of prairie dogs is second only to that of humans. They use this language to identify predators with remarkable detail and communicate these dangers to one another. Dolphins Dolphins are known for their intelligence—they're even said to be the second most intelligent animal after humans. As shown in MRI scans during Emory University research, the dolphin neocortex (the part of the brain associated with sensory perception and conscious thought, among other things) was found to be "more highly convoluted than our own" and capable of processing complex emotions. Dolphins are even believed to be able to learn different languages: After hearing whale songs at the French aquatic theme park Planète Sauvage, resident dolphins were found mimicking those whale sounds in their sleep. Birds Avian species have an amazing internal navigation system that's worthy of human envy. While many of us would be lost without a GPS, these creatures can fly thousands of miles to a specific coordinate with no external assistance. Some birds use familiar landmarks to find their way around, while others even have built-in "ferromagnets," which allow them to orient themselves based on the Earth's magnetic field. Meanwhile, baby chickens are altruistic when it comes to feeding time: They produce a specific chirp when feeding, a way of announcing to their siblings that it's time to feed. Scientists believe survival of the fittest does apply here, just in broader terms. The more chicks survive, the more likely their shared genetic material will be passed on. Baby chickens have even been discovered to peep in response to their mothers while still in the egg—as early as 24 hours before hatching. Birds are also more "human-like" than we think. Watch this video of a Russian raven "tobogganing" down a snowy roof for proof. [HTML1] (Photo courtesy Stockvault/Geoffrey Whiteway)
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5 amazing animals

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