Elephants That Paint, Birds That Make MusicDo Animals Have an Aesthetic Sense?
Art in its myriad forms has long been seen as a uniquely human gift, evidence of our advanced cognitive abilities and consciousness. In contrast, scientists have understood all animal behavior as having survival value alone. But a magpie singing to itself embellishes its song with trills, overtones, and a unique closing phrase, and animals as diverse as elephants, chimpanzees, and seals appear to enjoy painting. Two Australian scientists—Lesley J. Rogers, D. Phil., D.Sc., professor of neuroscience and founder of the Research Centre for Neuroscience and Animal Behaviour at the University of New England, Australia, and Gisela Kaplan, Ph.D., also a professor at the Research Centre—write that, in the face of growing evidence for animals’ complex cognitive abilities, we should not be too hasty in deciding whether what is art to us might also be art to them.
Bird Brain? It May Be A Compliment!
Chickens, supposedly the ultimate “bird brains,” give a different warning cry when they spot a predator overhead or on the ground—and they only give a cry when other chickens are present. This surprises many scientists, who have long assumed that the human and mammal neocortex is essential for complex cognitive processes. Now that idea is being challenged, write the authors, by research showing the surprising capabilities of some tiny brains.