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Elephants: The world's smartest animals?
They never forget, and a new study proves these brainy pachyderms can cooperate to solve problems, too. Watch out, dolphins!
 
A new study may topple the animal kingdom's intelligence hierarchy, after elephants proved they can cooperate to solve problems.
A new study may topple the animal kingdom's intelligence hierarchy, after elephants proved they can cooperate to solve problems.
Corbis

The video: Elephants, it turns out, are a lot smarter than we suspected. Researcher Joshua Plotnik, who in 2006 proved that elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror, conducted a study measuring how well the pachyderms can cooperate with each other. In the experiment, two elephants tug a table of corn on the cob toward themselves, but only succeed if the pair coordinates by each yanking on opposite ends of a rope. (See video below.) The elephants easily understood how they needed to work together to obtain their reward — waiting for absent partners to show up before pulling, and not bothering to pull by themselves. They even outsmarted their human researchers: One 5-year-old female intuited that by stepping on one rope, they'd get the food while her partner did all the work.
The reaction:
"Cooperation itself is not rare in the animal kingdom — think of honey bees," says Traci Watson at AOL News. "But the ability to learn a new cooperative task and understand its workings is extremely rare." Only a small number of animals, such as chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys, can do that. That's why this is so exciting, says Plotnik, as quoted by New Scientist. "Clearly elephants fit in the top echelon of animal intelligence." Check out the cooperating elephants:

 

 

 

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