Canine cognition, problem solving invertebrates, and basketball playing fish…who knew?

In doing some research for this week’s blog, I found this video on Animal Cognition which I find to be fascinating. Here is the original video on youtube:


Here is what Animal Cognition had to say about this video:


A dog successfully catches a fish by using pieces of bread as bait. The dog seems to understand that the best strategy for catching a fish is keeping his mouth close to the floating bread. Even when he sees a fish jump near his hind end, he doesn’t change his position.


Using bait to catch prey is generally considered a form of “proto-tool” use. This is different from “true” tool-use in that the tool (the bait) is not actually held or manipulated while the animal is using it. Other animals have been spotted using bait to catch fish, including herons and crows.

I love the idea that dogs have the ability to figure out that bread will help to achieve a goal, and what it implies about their cognition. I think we have only just begun to understand the power of the mind and what animals are capable of learning and planning. After all, who would have thought that you could teach a goldfish to swim through a hoop or play basketball?

The octopus is an invertebrate classified along with mollusks, such as clams and oysters who don’t have brains. How anything as primitive as an invertebrate could have any level of intelligence was the standard attitude for many years. But, the humble octopus has surprised us with it’s ability to use tools, play, and respond to human interaction with affection and dislike! Clearly the intellectual ability, and consciousness of invertebrates needs to be examined more closely! Here are a couple octopi videos:

First, the octopus uses a shell to hide from a crab, then dashes out to get it (without consciousness, how could an invertebrate figure out this hunting strategy of deception and surprise?):

And here is an octopus solving a Rubik’s cube. Lord knows can’t do this!**

Sea otters use rocks as tools to dislodge Abalone from rocks and to break them open, but here is a wonderfully clever adaptation by a sea otter to protect her baby.

Clearly there are amazing untapped abilities in a wide variety of animals. How we view the fellow creatures who share our lives and planet may need to be reassessed as we discover more evidence of creative problem solving and consciousness. If invertebrates can solve Rubik cubes, then, I’m thinking we need to get octopi more involved in solving some of our social/economic problems! After all, how many politicians do you know who can do a Rubik’s cube, or even catch a fish with a piece of bread…?



** For a wonderful book on Octopi, see The Soul of an Octopus, A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness. by Sy Montgomery. I loved it!


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