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Why do elephants need so many neurons.

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Why do elephants need so many neurons.

Postby Catfishman » Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:49 pm

The elephant brain is much bigger then the human brain and I know brain size doesn't indicate intelligence but why do they need so much more neurons? We basically have the same muscle and organ structure, so why would they evolve such an energy slurping organ while they don't seem to need it?
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Re: Why do elephants need so many neurons.

Postby MisterATP » Thu Nov 13, 2008 9:34 pm

Not so many as you think... Just think about body size/brain size ratio... :wink:
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Postby Catfishman » Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:10 pm

Yes, I know, but the cells aren't 7 times bigger then ours, they do have more.
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Postby alextemplet » Thu Nov 13, 2008 11:16 pm

How can you be so sure that they don't need it? No one's been able to figure out what goes on in their heads. Some have argued that they use ultrasound as a form of linguistic communication similar to urspeech, which could put their intelligence somewhere in the vicinity of humanity.
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Postby MichaelXY » Fri Nov 14, 2008 1:43 am

I was not aware that our friendly pachyderms had ultrasonic ability. Could you explain how this is so?
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Re: Why do elephants need so many neurons.

Postby alextemplet » Fri Nov 14, 2008 3:30 am

In a nutshell, they are capable of producing and detecting low-frequency sound outside the range of human detection. (I previously referred to this as ultrasound; the article I posted below calls it infrasound. My bad.) This sound is capable of traveling long distances and some scientists think they use it as a form of linguistic communication. Here's a link with a few quotes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant#Biology_and_behavior

elephants communicate over long distances by producing and receiving low-frequency sound (infrasound), a sub-sonic rumbling, which can travel through the ground farther than sound travels through the air.


Though this research is still in its infancy, it is helping to solve many mysteries, such as how elephants can find distant potential mates, and how social groups are able to coordinate their movements over extensive range.


Elephants are believed to be among the most intelligent of animals, up there with primates and whales:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_intelligence

A wide variety of behaviors, including those associated with grief, learning, allomothering, mimicry, art, play, a sense of humor, altruism, use of tools, compassion, self-awareness, memory and possibly language[1] all point to a highly intelligent species that are thought to be equal with cetaceans[2][3] and primates[4][5].


They really are fascinating animals; I hope to one day be able to study them in the wild! :)
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Re: Why do elephants need so many neurons.

Postby MichaelXY » Fri Nov 14, 2008 6:14 am

Infrasonic makes sense as their large body size would seem to resonate at very low frequency. I also agree that the elephant most likely has more intelligence than currently attributed towards them.

I look forward to the day that mankind is able to see beyond its own arrogance and embraces the animal kingdom :)
And perhaps learns to communicate if that is possible.
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Postby alextemplet » Fri Nov 14, 2008 4:01 pm

I find that to be absolutely fascinating, and it's one of the biggest factors that led me into biology. I wonder, if it is true that they are able to communicate complex ideas like humans do, does that mean they also have their own unique cultures? Perhaps even religious beliefs? I think that would be a fascinating area of study, if we can ever figure out what they're saying.
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Postby Mikey » Sun Nov 30, 2008 1:18 am

I would like to assume that they couldn't communicate complex ideas like we do, because, our communication makes us the intelligent "creatures" that we are. If animals could communicate like we could, you would like to think that ants would be making better anthills, and bees would be making better bee hives, and raccons would have found a way into my garbage cans. :P
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Postby Darwin420 » Mon Dec 01, 2008 10:08 pm

I think you should quote "intelligent" rather than creatures.
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Postby Mikey » Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:27 am

Maybe I should quote both of them...
But you're partially right that not quite every human is "intelligent" =]
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Re:

Postby alextemplet » Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:38 am

Mikey wrote:I would like to assume that they couldn't communicate complex ideas like we do, because, our communication makes us the intelligent "creatures" that we are. If animals could communicate like we could, you would like to think that ants would be making better anthills, and bees would be making better bee hives, and raccons would have found a way into my garbage cans. :P


This is a rather biased perspective. Our communication does not make us intelligent; rather, our intelligence makes us able to communicate. Your examples of better anthills and beehives are flawed for two reasons. First, we're talking about elephants, not ants, so it's completely irrelevant. Second, how do you define "better" in terms of anthills? Obviously ants have gotten along just fine with what they have. Can you think of a better system for them? If we humans really are so superior in our intellect, I would think we would have solved most of the world's problems by now.
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