Being a human is a pretty sweet gig, all things considered. We've got opposable thumbs so dexterous they could start their own Cirque du Soleil troupe and brains so ripped our skulls can barely contain them. But before you grab your dog and give him a triumphant "IN YOUR (FAITHFUL, ADORABLE) FACE!" you should know that some of the traits and behaviors that make us human are also demonstrated by other animals. Animals that apparently think they're people.
6Parrots Name Their Babies
What to name a baby is one of the first things that expecting parents obsess about. But whether they end up naming their kid something generic like "Ashley" or "John," or if they happen to despise the fruit of their loins and name him "Audio Science," most moms and dads will agree that names are part of what makes their babies unique and help to forge their individual identity.
All babies look alike, even Theobold Pimpmeister here.
And more than that, individual names also make humans special. After all, outside of sappy Disney movies involving comically deformed elephants, what other animal parent takes the time to give each of its newborn members its own permanent moniker?
"Never mind, Christine. You can still sell him off to the ivory merchants."
Except the talking animals depicted in Disney movies aren't so far off the mark, at least when it comes to a few select species.
Dolphins, crows, primates and parrots have all been observed using unique calls when they want the attention of specific members of their groups. This means that, at least among these species, individual animals actually have the equivalent of their own names. Most perplexing of all seems to be parrots, because according to pirate-movie logic, it should scientifically turn out that every single parrot ever has the same name.
"GWAAK! Polly wants some individuality! GWAAK!"
But now that scientists know that parrots have signature calls, a few questions come up, like: Who gets to decide the signature call that's given to each parrot chick? Is it the parrots themselves who decide what they should be called, thus making it an innate characteristic? Is some sort of alpha parrot handing out identifying sounds? In order to answer all these questions, researchers at Cornell University filmed parrots in the wild of Venezuela, along with their newborn chicks, to see exactly when and how a parrot got its name.
"He shall be known as TupAWWWK!"
What the scientists found was that it was not the parrot newborns who got to choose their signature calls. Instead, it was the proud parrot parents who gave each chick its name. Much like a human, the adult parrot will choose a name for its young soon after it's born. Each parrot, though, may tweak its own signature call as it grows older, elongating a whistle here or shortening a chirp there, essentially giving itself a nickname.
"Hi! I'm (Saxophone solo from Careless Whisper)."
5Whales Have Pop Songs
Obviously, humans aren't the only animals that sing. Birds do it, killer whales do it, and if you happen to work in construction and are really lucky, you might just see a frog do it.
What makes humans unique is pop culture. One guy can make a song, put it on an album or the Internet and have thousands of people singing along to it, all over the world. There's no way another animal does that, right?
Well, we know of at least one.
Whale songs become "hits" that can spread halfway around the globe. All the males in a humpback whale population usually sing just one song at any given time. But once they get bored of that song, an innovator in the group will start singing a new one. Sometimes, this new song contains elements of the previous song combined with some new stuff, kind of like when the Fat Boys and Chubby Checker worked together on "The Twist." At other times, this song is completely new, kind of like when you're in a freestyle rap battle and you have to come up with something that rhymes with "dingleberry" on the spot.
"Oh God oh God there's nothing that rhymes with 'OoooOOoooWEEEEEeeeeeooooOOOOoo'."
Once a new song catches on, every hip male in the community will start singing it, too. But that's just a bunch of whales in a group imitating each other. That's not like the mass media pop culture humans have, right?
Except scientists have found out that a song doesn't stay limited to just one population. A catchy enough tune will actually spread all over the Pacific, from Australia to French Polynesia, thousands of miles, over a couple of years. For some reason, all the whales east of Australia are unoriginal bastards who will just plagiarize their western neighbors once they hear them sing a new song.
They just stick it over a dance beat and call it a remix.