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14 Fascinating, Borderline Unbelievable Animal Brains

Updated May 28, 2020 24.6k views14 items

There’s a lot of impressive facts about the power of the human brain. And while we might be the "rulers" of the world, animals have an incredible sense of intuition and intelligence too. In fact, animal brains are just as interesting as the human brain, if not more.

Animal brains come in all shapes and sizes - and in all parts of an animal's body. There are plenty of crazy animal brain facts that are almost hard to believe. These fascinating animal neurological facts cover not only what their brains look like but what they have the power to do. From the crazy and bizarre to the utterly fascinating, these amazing facts about animal brains will have you questioning just how special your own noodle really is.

  • Tree Shrews Have The Highest Brain-To-Body Mass Ratio Of Any Mammal

    Photo: 3268zauber / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    Though it’s not always accurate, a lot of scientists still put a lot of faith in measuring intelligence by the ratio of brain mass to body mass. By that token, humans are actually fifth in the pecking order of intelligence. The mammal that scores the highest? The tree shrew.

    That extra brain power has imbued in the tree shrew a positively weird assortment of abilities, like drinking fermented nectar without getting drunk, for example. They have also developed pretty extensive symbiotic relationships with several types of plants.

  • Sea Squirts Eat Their Own Brains

    When it first pops out of its egg, the sea squirt looks surprisingly like a tadpole. It swims through the water, using its brain to figure out the complexities of swimming, until it finds a suitable spot to plant.

    Once the sea squirt has picked its resting spot, it hunkers down and literally eats its own brain. From that point forward, the sea squirt will rely solely on its automatic processes to nourish itself and propagate the species.

  • Cockatoos Can Solve Complex Puzzles

    Photo: John Moose / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.0

    In 2013, a team of scientists concocted a plan to have cockatoos decipher a “series of interlocking devices, each of which jammed the next lock along” in order to retrieve a nut. And, to the scientists' surprise, the cockatoo actually succeeded.

    Even cooler, once a cockatoo had successfully figured out how to pick a lock, they remembered the solution in the future. Cockatoos who couldn’t figure out the locks, meanwhile, could typically complete them after watching another bird go through the solution.

  • Photo: Gabriel Barathieu / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 2.0

    At an average of about 16 pounds, sperm whales have the largest brain of any living mammal. That might sound like a lot, but when you consider sperm whales can get up to 63 tons, it’s not super impressive.

    In fact, scientists believe the sperm whale’s one-of-a-kind noggin was actually made for ramming other whales. The theory spawns from the sperm whale’s long history of sinking ships for no apparent reason. A sperm whale was the inspiration for Moby Dick.

    Though the whale’s head is huge, most of a sperm whale’s cranium is composed of “two large, oil-filled organs stacked one on top of the other - the spermaceti organ on top, and another below it called the junk.” According to scientists, partitions in the connective tissue inside the junk actually helps reduce stress when the sperm whale uses its head to smash into stuff.

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