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Old 11-23-03, 03:33 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Join Date: Mar-2002
Location: Ottawa
Age: 30
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Hmm, interesting question, but I daresay I baulk at the thought of anthropomorphism. I don't think that reptiles are, in particular, intelligent. I'm sure they have some form of basic thought that does not by much transend instinct. Anyway, I wrote this in a similar post a while back and it pretty much encompasses what I think (so why retype it? )

First of all, does thinking = intelligence? Let's assume that they are synonymous, in this case, as one cannot go without the other.
If you percieve intelligence as being problem solving, adapting to new situations, memorizing, etc. Then no, reptiles are probably not very intelligent.
They know what they need to know to survive - they know how/what to hunt, what to do to escape predators, how to thermoregulate (even then, how often do you come across animals that have been burnt?), how to hide, how to procreate and so on. If you classify an animal perfectly suited to it's surroundings, then reptiles would seem very smart after all.
And yet again, if you are measuring by brain mass, then leopard reptiles are not very smart. Crocodiles, for example, have the largest relative brain mass (still pretty small - the size of a cigar I believe) in the reptile kingdom and could thus be considered as being the smartest reptile, and they can recognize patterns (lets say, a herd of animals come to the water to drink at the same time each day). But lets face it, even the 'smartest' herps don't have very big brains, even compared to their small body size.

Now, some herps are social animals, even though it's usually only for a part of the year (ie rattlers). They can communicate very well through body language or even vocally (anyone who has accidentally put a male leo in with another, or sprayed a leo in the face can vouch for this!). They can react to threats, but they probably only have a few methods of doing so (run; hide; drop tail; intimidate or fight back). I doubt a leopard gecko could go beyond these instincts.
As for reaction vs intention, I would say that reptiles <i>intend</i> to do very little. Most of what they do is based on instinct. Sure, they can be taught little tricks (I know of some leos who will come for food, or will go nuts at seeing a feather on a string!) but are they really being taught these things? In my opinion, no. They are basing reactions on instinct. I would, however, agree that they do have some power of recognition (be it sound or, say, a pattern of activity), but that most if not all that they do is governed by instinct.

In short, reptiles don't <i>need</i> to be smart. If they spend their days contemplating the rising of the sun in the east and the setting of the sun in the west, they wouldn't get very far in terms of furthering the species. That's a bit exagerated, but you get the idea Animals, IMO, function better if they are functionning almost solely on instinct. Instinct protects - why do you think it kicks in and saves many they are frightened or in danger?

However, I would certainly agree that snakes have personnalities... who wouldn't! I have raised several animals for hatchling-hood and even kept in the same conditions, they don't turn out the same. I might not call it personnality, but they certainly aren't robots.

Anyway, just IMO Looking forward to hearing others'!

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