6 "Uniquely" Human Traits Found in Animals

What separate us humans from animals? Is it the ability to think? To use tools? Compassion?

Kate Douglas wrote a very intriguing article for New Scientist about the 6 "uniquely" human traits now found in animals.

For example, take morality:

A classic study in 1964 found that hungry rhesus monkeys would not take food they had been offered if doing so meant that another monkey received an electric shock. The same is true of rats. Does this indicate nascent morality? For decades, we have preferred to find alternative explanations, but recently ethologist Marc Bekoff from the University of Colorado at Boulder has championed the view that humans are not the only moral species. He argues that morality is common in social mammals, and that during play they learn the rights and wrongs of social interaction, the "moral norms that can then be extended to other situations such as sharing food, defending resources, grooming and giving care".

Not convincing enough? How about emotion:

Emotions allow us to bond with others, regulate our social interactions and make it possible to behave flexibly in different situations. We are not the only animals that need to do these things, so why should we be the only ones with emotions? There are many examples of apparent emotional behaviour in other animals.

Elephants caring for a crippled herd member seem to show empathy. A funeral ritual performed by magpies suggests grief. Was it spite that led a male baboon called Nick to take revenge on a rival by urinating on her? Divers who freed a humpback whale caught in a crab line describe its reaction as one of gratitude. Then there's the excited dance chimps perform when faced with a waterfall – it looks distinctly awe-inspired. These days, few doubt that animals have emotions, but whether they feel these consciously, as we do, is open to debate.

Link | See also a video round-up of animals with "human" abilities, compiled by Sandrine Ceurstemont for NS - via popurls

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

"I agree with a lot of the article, but we still need to be cautious in assigning emotions to animals based on behavior. We tend to see what we want to see."

I do not agree with that. You can say the same about humans too. We do not know whether the other human has feelings or, not we just presume its existence. We know animals have a brain and an advanced nerve system, they react to pain as we do. There is no reason to assume that they do not feel as we do.

Back at the university we were taught by the lecturer about cats in animal testing. They implanted microchips and various instruments into their brains with which they could discover that they actually had dreams!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I find it arrogant and close-minded of people when they are suprised that animals do certain things in certain ways that they attribute only to humans. Just because we don't communicate or live in ways that they do, just because we do not understand does not mean they don't have their own concepts of morality/ethics/language, etc.
WOW. It's almost like that kind of thinking has started wars among HUMANS.

Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Mooncake.. just wondering here, what brought that on? I don't think anyone said anything about not believing in evolution? I'm not "spitting" on you, just wondered why you'd suddenly let out that tirade?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
what i don't understand is how this stuff can be passed as common knowledge, yet, the theory of evolution can be thrown out like a dirty bandage. we continue to research distinct similarities between humans and all other walks of life, are SUCCESSFUL, and are even able to say that chimps have 97% of the same genes as we do. HOW IS THIS NOT PROOF OF EVOLUTION? i'm sorry guys.. i don't want anyone to spit on me for bringing up this crap, but i'm just boggled by things like this. i guess divine faith is just not something i am capable of grasping.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Never said it did, Marco.
There are a lot of theories of morality out there by well respected scientists/anthropoligists/philosophers/theorists, yet they all have limitations. It's hard to define morality in animals when we don't yet entirely understand morlaity in humans.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"6 "Uniquely" Human Traits Found in Animals"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More