Whether we consider ourselves above or below other animals, the fact that we share similarities amongst most, if not all living things on Earth, is undeniable.
Through observations and with the advancement of technology, we have begun to take a greater look at our companions in this mysterious journey called life, and indeed, we have seen that we do share many common traits.
Why Animals are like Humans
All life must be treasured and as such, let us present to you why animals are, in various different ways, like humans.
Memory & Emotions
Some animals have a fascinating memory. The crow for example never forgets a face and will be quite vengeful if someone wronged them. Many birds seem to share this trait however, including the raven, magpies, and jays (1).
Crows, in particular, seem to remember for years and years the faces of people who had a strong impact upon them. They can sometimes teach their offspring to share their animosity towards a person that posed a threat.
Elephants also seem to never forget the face of someone (2). They recognize other beings for the rest of their life, and not only this, they actually recall past droughts and may avoid the places where they occurred. They memorize different pathways for sources of food and water. One of the saddest things discovered is that both elephants, dolphins, wolves, chimpanzees and many other animals actually grieve their dead (3).
When it comes to mourning, dogs have been the subjects of many tales from around the world. There are plenty of examples and visible signs of mourning (4). Some dogs mourn their owners for more than a year. They seem to stay near their grave or in certain places where they usually met.
Since suffering clearly indicates caring, let’s take a look at something different, laughter. There are many animals out there that can actually laugh and can be tickled. Rats, for example, can be tickled, and scientists used this to pinpoint their “tickle center” in the brain. This led to the discovery of sounds that are equivalent to human laughter (5). Primates also laugh but more interestingly, they can make each other laugh (6). When it comes to memory, elephants long held the supreme title but recent studies indicate that dolphins now hold it. Dolphins can actually recognize the sounds of their friends even after 20 years of being apart (7). What is more interesting is the fact that some animals can actually playback their memories – episodic memories – much like we humans do.
Though it is very hard to test this and we clearly haven’t found the best ways of checking this, research indicates that at least some animals are capable of replaying past memories. Nevertheless, since some factors have been proven it ultimately indicates the same result, but the depth is unclear. However, as technology improves so too shall our methods and the results may actually shake the foundation of previous views (8).
Since animals mourn, they clearly love, and since some of them display the ability to recall past memories, they clearly have what some would call, a soul. This all comes together, the fact that animals also dream comes as no surprise.
Dreams occur in the REM sleep – rapid eye movement state. Many mammals and even some birds and fish display this (9). I personally witnessed my dog moving his legs and twitching rapidly like he was running, while he was asleep, suggesting a possible nightmare. Some kittens that I had also seemed to be “talking” in their sleep.
Though it is not clear how similar our own dreams are compared to those of other animals, many similarities do exist.
A wide range of animals actually use tools for hunting, gathering, covering from the rain, or self-defense just like we do. Gorillas, for example, use braches to test water depth while elephants use them to swat at flies.
Some octopuses use coconut shells as portable armor while chimpanzees craft their own tools for hunting. Tool usage is quite common in the animal kingdom and not a special feature of humans (10).
Animals are in many ways just like us. They grieve, love, dream, and laugh. They use tools and have complex social structures. When we look at the universe we see that life is not as common as we would want it to be, and even if it were, all life must be treasured regardless.
Did you know?
– Orangutans create whistles from bundles of leaves to ward off predators.
– Octopuses were subjected to a test of behavior. Many items were placed in the setting and were later removed. The octopus understood that it had to choose its favorite item, and it did.
– Elephants usually visit their dead and smell their bones.
– A chimpanzee was caught on film while using a tool to clean the teeth of a deceased possible family member in a mortuary-like ritual.
– Magpies bury their dead under twigs of grass.
– Some primates beg for food while extending their hands. Others have been filmed as shaking their heads in a – no – like response towards some actions they disagreed with.