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NOVA scienceNOW: How Smart Are Animals?

Airs Wednesday, July 6, 2011 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Dolphins swimming in water. Off the coast of Honduras, on Roatan Island, a legendary experiment in dolphin communication is being attempted for the first time in twenty years — one that could prove that dolphins can coordinate with each other and be creative on cue.

Cosmic Perspective

In every episode of "NOVA scienceNOW," host Neil deGrasse Tyson signs off by taking a broad look at things. Here, you can watch and comment on these videos.

Irene Pepperberg poses with a new study subject named Griffin, the parrot. An unlikely scientific team, Pepperberg and her talking parrot, Alex, revolutionized scientists’ ideas about animal communication.
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Above: Irene Pepperberg poses with a new study subject named Griffin, the parrot. An unlikely scientific team, Pepperberg and her talking parrot, Alex, revolutionized scientists’ ideas about animal communication.

Would you care to match wits with a dog, an octopus, a dolphin, or a parrot? You may think twice after watching the segments in this "NOVA scienceNOW" episode. While we may not be ready to send pets to Harvard, the remarkable footage and findings presented here demonstrate that many animal species are much smarter than we assume and in ways we had never imagined.

New discoveries are revealing that "man's best friend" is smarter than we ever thought, with a brain that resembles our own in ways we never imagined. Travel to Wolf Park, where scientists are tracing the evolutionary path that turned wild animals into our cuddly companions, and meet a superdog with a vocabulary of over 1,000 words.

An unlikely scientific team, Irene Pepperberg and her talking parrot, Alex, revolutionized scientists' ideas about animal communication and intelligence. Yet even after Alex's premature death, Pepperberg still struggles to convince some critics that Alex's accomplishments—counting, reasoning, identifying shapes and colors—are more than mere party tricks.

"NOVA scienceNOW" is on Facebook, and you can follow @novascinow on Twitter.

Video

Preview: NOVA scienceNOW: How Smart Are Animals?

Above: How well can we understand what’s going on in the brains of non-human animals? Do our pets — like dogs — have the same feelings we do? How smart are animals really? Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts "NOVA scienceNOW: How Smart Are Animals?"

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