The Intelligence of Animals

Danilo Mainardi

€ 15,00
Publisher: Cairo Editore
Collection: Saggi
Pages: 208
ISBN/EAN: 9788860522153


Which is the most intelligent animal in the world? Sheba, the chimpanzee who knows how to add, or Cholla, the horse that paints holding the paintbrush in his mouth? Or, Lassie, Furia, Francis, and so many other animals working in the movies and which, through a kind of metamorphosis, acquired abilities for the screen that do not exist in nature?

Danilo Mainardi rereads the mysterious book of life and, with the comfort of lots of natural stories, takes us into the complex universe of animal intelligence. But he does it with a warning: are we really sure that to be intelligent an animal must acquire the same faculties as man? Is it possible that in order to demonstrate their intelligence animals must perforce pervert their nature?

The famous ethologist invites us to observe animals – all animals – with a mind free of prejudice and the mania of reading symbolism or anthropomorphisms, keeping in mind that the extraordinary variety of forms and behaviours present in zoology is an expression of the many wisdoms of which life is pervaded. Thus it is not possible to construct a hierarchy of intelligences, but only to note their plurality, with admiration. So not only the most evolved species are intelligent like the apes, the elephants, the dolphins and our cat and dog friends. Or the more social species like the wolf, where every single individual, each with different functions, collaborates for a common aim. Intelligent behaviours are also typical even in the simplest species which, drawing upon the wisdom of instinct, tested over eras of natural selection, manage to respond in a sophisticated manner to their problems of survival. As, for example, the female of the Australian frog, Rheobatracus silus which, when it is time to reproduce, instinctively stops eating in order to allow her stomach to host and protect the tadpoles.

Every form of knowledge is valid in the measure in which it contributes to the healthy and balanced life of a species because, in nature, the sole principle that counts is to perpetuate the existence of the species. Mainardi guarantees that.

The author
Danilo Mainardi, ethologist, ecologist and popular science divulger, is professor of Behavioural Ecology at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. He is honorary president of the LIPU (Italian League for the Protection of Birds), member of the National Academy of Sciences (dei Quaranta) and former president of the International Ethological Society. He collaborates with Corriere della Sera, Il Sole-24 Ore, and the monthly Airone. He is a regular guest of Piero Angela in Superquark. Cairo Editore has published his Nella mente degli animali, now in its fifth edition, La bella zoologia and the novel L'acchiappacolombi.

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