#3. Michael the Painting Gorilla
OK, so teaching an animal how to paint isn't that impressive: this elephant was trained to paint a picture of an elephant holding a gigantic rose (or perhaps a miniature elephant holding a regular rose), but he's still dumb as a house. He's just moving his trunk in the way he was trained, which is why all his pictures look the same. Common sense dictates that only humans can produce art that is original and expressive.
Also Piss Christ.
But common sense is dead wrong: according to experts, you can teach some animals how to be creative. Gorillas in particular are pretty good at that, as long as they have been trained to communicate with humans through sign language -- if you stick a brush in their hands, get them to paint something, and ask them what it is, sometimes their answers will surprise you. Take Michael, a gorilla, and the author of this painting called "Apple Chase":
OK, shit, that looks nothing like an apple... But did we mention that Michael used to own a pet dog called Apple? One who looked like this:
And did we mention that Apple was deceased at the time Michael made this painting? So not only did Michael reproduce the image of the dog from memory (choosing those colors himself), he also named it "Apple Chase" because he used to love playing chase with the dog. He expressed his emotional anguish over Apple's death by painting a beautiful picture of his beloved friend. Also, did we mention that he was an ape and had a pet? That's crazy.
Another time, Michael was asked to paint a bouquet of flowers and he made this:
What's even more impressive is that artist apes can also express abstract emotions -- famous "talking" gorilla Koko made a painting called "LOVE" that looks like this:
... but we're actually not sure if that's supposed to be a heart or the firm red buttocks of another ape. Either way it's pretty impressive, and kinda hot.
#2. Rio the Logical Sea Lion
Humans are logical animals, despite YouTube's comments section best efforts to prove otherwise. If you're at a stop light and you see the intersecting light turn yellow, you'll start revving up your engine as you prepare to go forward. That's logical thinking in action: You know that if a light is yellow then it's about to turn red, and you also know that if a light is red then the other one is green, so you automatically associate the yellow light with going forward. You're making a logical leap, something no other animal is able to do, which is why bears suck so much at driving.
However, in 1992 we found the first exception: Rio, a sea lion, the least bad-ass species called "lion".
It's like calling squirrels "land sharks".
Rio lived at the University of California at Santa Cruz and was known for being smarter than other sea lions. Perhaps feeling threatened by her intelligence (even though "smarter than other sea lions" doesn't sound that impressive, to be frank) a couple of scientists decided to perform an experiment to find out exactly how smart she was.
First they showed Rio a picture of two things: a crab and a tulip. Then they showed her another picture of the same tulip and a radio. They wanted to see if Rio could associate the crab with the radio... and surprisingly, she did. This is called forward transitivity, and it's something no other animal had been able to do up to then.
This is the first step on the road to sentience.
Rio even managed to do backwards transitivity, that is, she was capable of associating the elements in reverse order, too. That might not sound especially hard to you, but then again you aren't a sea lion. They tested Rio with 90 different shapes (30 in each category) and tried to see if she could go back and forth between them. She aced the test.
Oh, and here's the best part. They tested her again 10 years later, just for kicks, and she still remembered everything she learned in the original experiment. Shit, we can't even remember what the previous entry on this article was about.
Something about a horse who wrote a book ...?
#1. Thinking Mold
Slime molds are fungus-like organisms that use spores to reproduce, and though they don't technically classify as fungus, they're still not that different from the stuff that magically appears on your bathroom walls if you're not really into that whole "hygiene" thing. And that's why it's so creepy that a specific type of slime mold, the Physarum polycephalum, has been known to display intelligence ... despite not having a brain.
Though it does kinda look like one.
In an experiment a specimen of polycephalum was subjected to a cold, dry environment for ten minute periods every hour. When the scientists stopped exposing it to the cold, they found out that the mold had learned the pattern and would collect itself every one hour ... anticipating the hostile conditions.
After a while the "memory" faded, but once the scientists applied the conditions again, the mold immediately went back on schedule. Amazingly, it could remember what it had learned before.
Which means that it can hold a grudge.
In another experiment, Hungarian and Japanese scientists tried to get polycephalum to solve a maze by placing food on both sides. It didn't just beat that shit; it also did it in the most efficient way possible. The mold's killer maze-solving technique means that not only is it capable of learning -- it could use teach us a thing or two.
For starters, it could help us finally beat Metroid 1.
For example, another experiment exposed the slime mold to some cornflakes that were arranged in a way that represented Tokyo and 36 surrounding cities, just to see which path it would take to travel around them. When the plolycephalum was released, it created a network that eerily resembled the Tokyo subway system. Holy shit!
OK, so what do we know: It has the ability to adapt to its surroundings. It knows its way around Japan. It's smarter than most of us. Yeah, it's not that hard to guess how this will end.
And be sure to order the brand new Cracked.com book! We promise it isn't the result of 1,000 monkeys on typewriters (at least not all of it).
To see why else we're better than Animal Planet, check out 6 Creepy Animal Behaviors That Science Can't Explain and 7 Insane Military Attempts To Weaponize Animals.
And stop by Linkstorm to see Bucholz playing checkers with a horse.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infograpic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!