10 rasgos que creías que te hacían humano (que se han encontrado en otros animales)

We have created a list of mental illnesses in other animals, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. It turns out we are not as unique as the greedy religious nuts that their ancestors believed; we are not even the only ones who have religion.

10. Knowledge Exchange

Knowledge exchange, especially across generations, puts humans at the top of the food chain. It is basically the definition of culture. It is also found in other species. For example, baboons teach each other the best feeding routes; fledgling birds learn to fly by watching their parents; and rats learn to eat safe foods by smelling each other’s breath. There are many other examples. Even fish have their «schools,» which happen to do better with experienced teachers. But it is not just social species; solitary animals also show a foundation for culture. Young turtles, for example, learn to navigate new obstacles by observing others do it first.

Needless to say, as species go extinct, so do their cultures. The last surviving North Atlantic right whales (practically wiped out by human whalers) now lack knowledge of their ancestral feeding grounds, further endangering the species. That is not to say culture is always a good thing, though. Sometimes, established ways of life do not fit with the environment, and maladaptive culture can lead a species to oblivion. Humans are learning this the hard way.

9. Strange Trends

In the era of TikTok, human trends are getting weirder. But so are other animals’. White-faced capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica display a range of unusual traditions, such as smelling each other’s fingers and, as a sort of game, biting a tuft of another monkey’s hair and holding it in their mouths while the other tries to grab it back. It is important to note that these traditions tend to be fleeting and usually last about a decade (similar to our own fashion and fads of a decade). They are also quite localized, so trends observed in one group may not be observed in the next.

Typically, these trends have no clear survival advantage. In fact, a new trend observed in a group of Costa Rican capuchins actually represented a threat to their survival: inserting a long, dirty finger, up to the first knuckle, into another monkey’s eye socket just above the eyeball. Those on the receiving end clearly feel uncomfortable, grimace and blink, but do not attempt to stop it. In fact, they encourage it, and the behavior can last for up to an hour. It could be compared to getting a tattoo or piercing, but with nothing to show for it like pain, except, perhaps, as a theorist might think, a strengthening of social bonds.

8. Fashion

In addition to strange behavioral trends, we also find fashion in animals. Bearded vultures, whose feathers are white, decorate themselves with iron-rich soil. Like human fashion, this signifies status—with older and dominant birds wearing more color.

There is even evidence of fashion in fruit flies. A study found that female fruit flies preferred males with green dust after watching other females mate with them.

Then there are the chimpanzees that sport a single blade of grass in their ears. It started in 2010, when a chimpanzee in Zambia spontaneously stuck one in its ear and left it there. Despite having no obvious purpose (certainly no direct survival purpose), other chimpanzees followed suit, then others, until four different groups were doing it.

7. Drug Use

Drug use is widespread in the animal kingdom. Jaguars in the Amazon independently seek out the Ayahuasca vine containing DMT used by humans for making ayahuasca; lemurs chew narcotic millipedes; and dolphins get high on pufferfish before floating upside down in a daze while staring at their own reflections.

In fact, non-human animals enjoy drugs so much that they are willing to endure their downsides. Bighorn sheep, for example, addicted to lichen, grind their teeth down to the gums and scrape the drug of choice off rocks. Spider monkeys, intoxicated by fermented fruit, vomit and fall out of trees. And a drunken moose in Sweden had the opposite problem: getting stuck in a tree instead.

Animals also use drugs to cope with their moods. In a famous study, rats kept in small cages with nothing to occupy their curious minds were more likely to choose a sweetened morphine solution over water and drink themselves to death with that substance. Even fruit flies turn to alcohol if they cannot find a mate.

6. Facial Expressions

What could be more uniquely human than a smile or a furrowed brow, or any of the emotions we display? It turns out facial expressions are found in many other animals. Sheep, for example, not only show facial expressions, they also recognize them. Studies have demonstrated their ability to distinguish between expressions of calm, startle, and fear in photographs of other sheep. They can even differentiate humans by looking at their faces.

Domesticated dogs are also capable of producing facial expressions. Wolves in the wild do not have the same range of movement in their eyebrows, eyes, lips, and ears, suggesting evolutionary pressure (or selective breeding) for cross-species communication (human-dog).

5. Sense of Humor

Did laughter occur to humans? It does not seem likely. According to some researchers, it evolved from the panting of play-fighting primates. The sound of panting/laughter, like in humans, assured others that the fight was not serious. Tickling any large ape today and you will hear the same noise (assuming they are in a good mood).

Some primates even show signs of a more complex sense of humor. The late gorilla Koko, who knew American Sign Language, once tied shoelaces together and made the «chase» sign. Some researchers believe that a sense of humor is something all mammals have, while others believe it is inherent to all animals, even insects. After all, they say, we continuously discover they are smarter than we thought, and as Darwin observed, animal intelligence mostly varies in degree, not in kind. Most of the research on non-human humor so far has focused on great apes, but it will be interesting to see where it leads.

4. Complex Language

The humorous use of language by Koko the gorilla also shows an understanding of complexity. For example, when asked to list things that are hard, she said both «rock» and «work». In other words, she understood that the word had two meanings.

However, surprisingly, the most complex language besides ours is not found in great apes (or even marine mammals), but in prairie dogs. These highly social animals have different noises or «words» for different predators. Their warning call for coyotes, for example, is different from their warning call for hawks, humans, etc. But that is not all. They also have «descriptive words» for the characteristics of a predator, allowing them to convey how big they are and what color they are, etc. This means they can form sentences. And in captivity, under lab conditions, they can also describe things they have never seen before.

We have only scratched the surface of prairie dog language so far. One thing is to compare sounds and behavior to those of predators, but prairie dogs chitchat constantly. When their behavior does not change significantly (e.g. running and hiding) in response to these noises (like ours generally does not change when we speak), it is virtually impossible to know what they are saying.

3. Storytelling

Surely storytelling sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom? Stories are to humans as honey is to bees, right? From history books to video games, from science to religion, storytelling is our sole occupation. However, it turns out many other animals do the same, including bees. The famous waggle dance of bees, where they use physical movements to communicate the location of food, includes information about distance, direction, difficulty of the route, and the value of the reward. However you look at it, they are sharing a narrative. And if insects can do it, why not mammals?

It has been argued that dogs construct a narrative when they touch their food bowl or scratch at the door to go out. They refer to problems and solutions, and in the case of wanting to go for a walk, also to other locations.

There is no reason to think that non-human storytelling is inferior to ours. The average citizen is unlikely to be able to perform the waggle dance, for example. In fact, some animals may be much better at storytelling than we could ever dream of: according to some, dolphins can use their sonar abilities to tell 3D stories. Projection of sono-pictorial holograms, for each other.

2. Spirituality

According to Jane Goodall, chimpanzees seem to feel awe. In the course of her research, she saw them rhythmically swaying towards a waterfall and then sitting to watch it. Of course, this has features of human spirituality, but it is impossible to say it is the same. Other behaviors by chimpanzees, for example, such as throwing gathered rocks to leave marks on trees, almost suggest a religion… or they might just enjoy it.

What we do know, however, is that other animals engage in death rituals. Elephants perform processions when an elephant dies, and the corpse attracts not only its own herd but also members from other herds. Interestingly, they stay close to their fallen even when a corpse attracts predators. It reminds one of the kind of courage humans often draw from their faith or convictions.

Dolphins also do it. In the year 2000, a female’s corpse found on a seafloor near Japan was accompanied at all times by two males. Their guardians surfaced only to take a breath. And when divers tried to remove the corpse, the males fought against them on two separate days. By the third day, the corpse was gone. In another instance, dolphins were observed guarding the carcass of a baby and shooing away seabirds even as it deteriorated.

Chimpanzees show the same kind of reverence. When a baby dies, its mother will continue to care for it, carrying it and grooming it for days, weeks, or even months afterward. She will only stop once the corpse has decayed beyond all recognition. Other primates, including gorillas, baboons, macaques, and lemurs, also have death rituals. Birds do it too; crows, jays, and others often gather in trees around their fallen, seemingly in mourning.

1. Cooking

Fire helped humans dominate the Earth. Besides allowing us to live in frigid environments, it expanded our food options and sped up digestion. No other animal cooks food with fire, at least as far as we know. But some are definitely capable of it. One bonobo learned to start a fire using provided fuel and matches, which it then used to cook hamburgers and marshmallows—before teaching this skill to its offspring. Granted, the bonobo was repeatedly shown the movie Quest for Fire to put the idea in its mind, but it still acquired the skill on its own. And, in any case, many humans today cannot start a fire even under the most favorable conditions.

Of course, cooking involves much more than fire. But humans are not alone in food preparation, either for taste or digestion. Some Japanese macaques wash sweet potatoes before eating them and prefer to use salt water to flavor them. Pigs also wash their food; they have been seen washing dirty apple chunks in a stream. Meanwhile, shrikes impale their prey on thorns or barbed wire and allow it to decay before eating. Capuchin monkeys leave palm nuts out in the sun to make them easier to crack. Interestingly, dampening the food is only part of cooking for big-headed ants: they put food onto the bellies of their larvae, so that they can cook it. They spit enzymes onto it and thus make it easier to digest.

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