What things can animals do that most people think only humans can do?
February 4, 2014 1:34 AM   Subscribe

For example, some dogs have learned to ride the subway and some ants keep other ants as slaves. What other things can animals do that most people don't know?
posted by casebash to Pets & Animals (36 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Ants also farm livestock, of a sort.
posted by gmb at 2:11 AM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Crows use tools.
posted by littlesq at 2:22 AM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

European Magpies recognize themselves in mirrors.
posted by logicpunk at 2:59 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Chimps smoke and masturbate.
posted by biffa at 3:05 AM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Have pets! Sorry no link, but easy to Google.
posted by jrobin276 at 3:10 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

My kitty could open doors.
My kitty could also hold grudges.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:08 AM on February 4, 2014 [13 favorites]

I am a farmer, and I am always amazed at the new things I learn that animals and insects can do.
Rabbits can build a woven nest, twig by twig, like a robin.
.Honey Bees recognize individual people and animals and treat them accordingly. (some they like, some they don't like)
Tadpoles can hibernate in water in the fall, and not develope into a frog until spring.
posted by GreenChapel at 4:24 AM on February 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Spear fish. Drive a car.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:48 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some hamsters can pick locks. I, Houdini is the classic fictional account of this, but if you google it you will find plenty of people complaining about it for real.
posted by ubiquity at 4:51 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sled dogs (huskies and malamutes) do a very distinct "thank you howl" after they finish eating. A group of sled dogs will wait until the last dog is done eating, and then all do the thank you howl in unison. They only do that howl after being fed.
posted by Flood at 5:36 AM on February 4, 2014 [10 favorites]

Crows play, even as adults. They also recognize individual humans and what kind of interaction they had with them and can remember them for years based on pretty limited contact.

Elephants (and some birds) will intentionally seek out alcohol to get drunk

Many animals engage in homosexuality

Swans, bald eagles, wolves and others are monogamous

Elephants also supposedly intentionally make art

Rats have been shown to exhibit altruistic behaviors
posted by edgeways at 5:59 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Snakes can open doors. [MeFi]
posted by HFSH at 6:00 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Elephants hold funerals and if you can believe it, they may also hold funerals for people.
posted by emilyw at 6:07 AM on February 4, 2014

Coyotes in Chicago have learned to cross at crosswalks, with the light signals, to not get run over.

Apes have trouble breastfeeding instinctually; they learn to breastfeed by watching other apes ... or, in a pinch, by watching humans. (Scroll way down for Jack Hanna interview discussing how they used human mothers to teach captive apes who hadn't seen other apes breastfeed.)

A lot of sea mammals, including orcas, have "midwives" who swim alongside the laboring mother for hours and hours and apparently encourage her.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:08 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Birds fishing

Fish birding.
posted by alms at 6:24 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Speaking of crows playing, this one enjoyed spending an afternoon sledding down a snowy roof.
posted by Falwless at 6:26 AM on February 4, 2014

Cats use a 'solicitation purr' to get what they want, which is a similar frequency to the cry of a human baby.
posted by Dimes at 7:07 AM on February 4, 2014

Oh, almost forgot. The frequency of a cat's purr has the ability to heal, theorizing that it would be ideal to offset the bone deterioration and muscle atrophy of astronauts in space.
posted by Dimes at 7:18 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rabbits play to relieve stress. Many pair-bond; I've seen a few bond in same-sex pairs, triads, or quads.
posted by clavicle at 7:46 AM on February 4, 2014

Prairie dogs have different calls for dogs, coyotes, and humans. They change based on height and shirt color.
posted by bunderful at 8:18 AM on February 4, 2014

Wild elephants intentionally get drunk on fermented fruit, picking it over just-ripe fruit.

Horses and monkeys both intentionally get high on poisonous frogs by licking them.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:11 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bees, wasps and other honey making insects can go to war with another hive to steal honey. This is called "robbing". Bees will defend their homes by ramming into the invading insects in mid air possibly causing both of their deaths. Scientists agree that this is pretty fucking metal.
posted by fontophilic at 9:50 AM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

On a darker note - sexual assault.

I read a book about ten years ago by a researcher who had lived with a tribe of primates and studied their behavior, and he described an assault. Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the book, the author, or the type of primate he studied, only that he at one point was at UC Berkeley.
posted by bunderful at 10:01 AM on February 4, 2014

Wikipedia page: tool use by animals - it's more than primates and some birds.

See also: animal cognition
posted by filthy light thief at 10:31 AM on February 4, 2014

Bears can break into cars. They have trouble getting out, though.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:17 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

My mom has an Alpaca that decided getting through the electric fence was worth it to be able to get up on the deck and bang on the door with a hoof. We saw it test the fence a few times, but were quite surprised that morning.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:20 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Service dogs are trained to do many wonderful things.

Two I have witnessed: a 100# golden retriever picking up a quarter from the floor with lips & tongue. Another 80# golden who refused to obey her handler's command to "step forward"; the dog saw that a motorcycle was taking the corner very fast and would have intersected their forward path.
posted by Jesse the K at 2:11 PM on February 4, 2014

One of the most interesting things about monogamous birds is....

sometimes they cheat
posted by glasseyes at 2:25 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

My dog pretends. He'll be playing with a ball or toy and a blanket, throwing & dragging the blanket to cover it, then searching and tossing the blanket up to find it. If he finds it sooner than he wants to, like accidentally uncovering it, he pretends he didn't see it and keeps going, til he's ready to find it. It's hilarious to watch, and his reaction is quite different than when he legitimately finds it.
posted by stormyteal at 4:30 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I recently read the book Animal Wise by Virginia Morell. It mentions some of the things above, but also: ants that teach other ants (and the amazing things they can do anyway); rats that laugh; fish which can target and shoot birds, human eyes, etc; elephants that grieve; parrotlets and their complicated social/sexual lives. It was amazing and fascinating and also quite easy to read if you feel so inclined.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:55 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm very skeptical of cat purrs helping healing

posted by casebash at 4:30 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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