More Human than Human: Nature’s Most Social Animals

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Earlier we discussed ants and termites as two amazing microsocieties in nature that have the ability to build habitats for themselves as human beings do. Now we’ll take a look at some species that, while unable to create structures to live in, have extremely advanced social organizations and relationships. Gorillas, dolphins, orcas, and wolves are just a few notable examples of these creatures, all of which are so distinctly human-like in some of their behavior that they’ve been said to have their own cultures.

Social Butterflies

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(images via bioteams, flickr, zsl.org, marinebio.org)

All these animals have in common that they rarely, if ever, “go it alone.” Wolves are notorious pack-hunters, and always have a clear chain of command in their ranks, but people often overlook that their seaborne counterpart in the world are the beautiful orcas. Also known as killer whales, orcas travel in pods like their smaller cousins, the dolphins. Dolphins get away with a much more historically gentle disposition, because of their playful and curious nature toward humans, while bands of gorillas, if ever sighted, are feared and held in awe for lack of presence anywhere in the world but central Africa. Each of these species move about their surroundings with a territorial purpose, and defend what they deem as rightfully their own. They defend the members of their social grouping, and they care for their young, old, and sick. They use babysitters, they have affairs, they have deadbeat fathers and even the occasional runaway bride. They mourn their recently departed. When these behaviors are witnessed, they can evoke a feeling that these animals are more human than we are.

Complex and Intelligent Societies

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(images via zsl.org, marinebio.org, sanriotown, bioteams)

Gorillas need little to no introduction when it comes to touting the intelligence of their species. They may not be chimps, but gorillas are very smart, and capable of expressing many of the core human emotions. The intelligence of dolphins and orcas are household topics in any home that has ever visited a water-park with a whale show; the games and complex stunts performed by these friendly whales always amazes children and adults alike. While wolves are universally feared by people across the globe for their carnal instincts, they are also revered for their cunning. These are all animals that possess intellects vastly superior to nearly all other animals on earth. Science fiction has even gone as far as to routinely showcase the intelligence of whales in such fantastic ways as to imply that had they hands instead of fins, they’d have cities. Every year, the communication between these creatures is studied more, and scientists discover year after year that they relay much more information than we previously gave them credit for. We always used to hold the fact that we have speech as an emblem for superiority over the rest of the planet’s species; soon we will just have to admit that we’re just a little more refined.

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