The only reason why everyone loves seeing chimps, dogs, and other animals wearing tuxedos is because Aaaw, they think they're people, even though they totally aren't. Or are they? As we've mentioned before, while no animal has ever come up with their own version of formal eveningwear, many of our four-legged or winged friends do exhibit eerily human-like behavior that will make you question what it really means to be intelligent.
Because you have to wonder, would we still consider ourselves the smartest species on the block if we knew that ...
#6. Birds Protect Their Nests With Passwords
JJ Harrison, Via Wikipedia
In the same way that you might want to protect your computer, so does the superb fairy wren set up passwords to protect its nest from harmful intruders. But unlike you simply trying to keep people from finding the manifest of the unspeakable that is your browser search history, these tiny Australian birds do it to make sure they aren't raising homicidal babies that don't even belong to them.
It's happened to the best of us.
A recent study published in the journal Current Biology has discovered that fairy wren mothers will start singing a particular song to their eggs about a week before they hatch, which will later act as a "learned password." Once they are born, the wren chicks then have to sing the tune back to their mom in order to be fed, and if they fail, the mother will abandon the nest and leave the birds to die. They do that because fairy wrens often fall victim to the bronze cuckoo, which lays eggs in their nests and tricks them into raising the home-invading brood as their own, who, other than being moochers, also have this silly habit of pushing their step-siblings out of the nest.
They're the jobless futon crashers of the animal kingdom.
Scientists concluded that the fairy wrens evolved this system of password voice recognition to tell their real offspring from cuckoo interlopers, even if the latter are massive, gray monstrosities that look absolutely nothing like wrens. Yeah, for all their complex nest security, birds are kind of stupid like that.
Per Harald Olsen
Apparently "chirp" is bird for "Duh!"
Naturally, the cuckoo chick will try to copy the wren's "feedin' time!" call, but in most cases it fails to hack into the avian motherboard and access the sweet database of regurgitated bird food. No wonder, though, considering that the complex two-second trill password consists of 19 separate melodic elements and differs from nest to nest ... which means that if you're the type of person who uses "password1" on all of your online accounts, you're literally worse at security than a bird that needs to password protect its own children.
#5. Cats Use Timeshares to Avoid Territory Conflict
David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
Between the 1960s and 1990s, thousands of people were sold on the idea of timeshares, i.e., collective property rights to a piece of real estate that they all shared a few days per year and never, ever cleaned, apparently. The business was also pretty dirty in a less literal sense, with jacked-up maintenance fees and the inability to sell your share in that Florida condo even if you desperately needed the cash to pay your kid's ransom.
"OK, we'll trade the kid for the timeshare, but you only get him back for two weeks every June."
Cats, on the other hand, circumvented all this bullshit by strategically never inventing money, and so their own experiences with timeshares have been a tad more civilized.
The BBC and the Royal Veterinary College recently ran an experiment just outside of London where GPS trackers and specially developed cat-cams were attached to 50 domestic cats to monitor where they ventured and how they interacted with other felines. The findings showed that each cat actually claimed a small amount of territory as its own, but would then allow other kitties to momentarily move in on their turf. Some might use the newly acquired real estate to hunt or just chill, but would eventually have to move on to let the original owner -- or another cat altogether -- take their place.
David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
Passive-aggressive "housekeeping" notes are a reality of timeshares not even cats can avoid.
However, this doesn't mean that the cats would just let any old schmuck take over their corner, as some of them were observed chasing away unwanted rivals. But if it was a feline they had apparently given access to their turf, then everything was cool. Man, the cat version of The Wire must be boring as hell.
#4. Voles Get Peer-Pressured to Drink More
While they may look like cute little fur-covered turds, the North American rodent known as the prairie vole harbors a deep and dark secret that would shame most humans: Its species is seemingly comprised solely of competitive alcoholics, which is bad news for all vole spouses out there but fantastic news for social scientists wanting to research the nature of peer pressure and social drinking.
Crippling substance abuse has never looked so adorable.
In an experiment from Oregon Health & Science University and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a bunch of voles were put in a cage with two bottles, one containing water and the other 6 percent ABV booze. Their drinking habits were then scrutinized, and when left alone, it was observed that the voles tended to drink equal amounts of water and alcohol. However, when housed with another vole, like their sibling, the rodents turned into literal party animals, choosing the alcohol over water 80 percent of the time while their furry companion assumingly kept egging them on and calling them the vole equivalent of "pussy."
Motoya Nakamura / The Oregonian
"Chug it, bro! What are you, a hamster?!"
Some pairs drank so much that they were probably sharing stories about how seeing their cousin in a bikini gave them a boner that one time, while others were more modest in their alcohol consumption. But in each case, the voles always tried to drink the exact same amount as the other critter in the cage, almost as if their fuzzy reputation was at stake, which is pretty much how humans invented binge drinking.
Hopefully they all got matched with other voles; you never wanna try to go drink for drink with the big guy.
Maybe it was all one big coincidence, though. Maybe these voles will match each other no matter what they drink. Researchers thought about that and conducted another experiment in which the fur-pies were given sugar water, which (other than alcohol) is their favorite thing in the world. While they did enjoy it more than water, the drink-matching behavior stopped completely for the exact same reason why you never see people doing Coke stands at college frat parties.