Some Animals Are Smarter Than We Think, Some Dumber

by | April 19, 2016 |

(Title photo credit: Morten Brekkevold via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA)

I’m in California, the second leg of my trip around the world. My niece, Julia, and her family live in Mill Valley, north of San Francisco. My sister, Carol, and her husband, Phil, live in Carmel Valley, about two and a half hours south of the city, around Monterey Bay. Carol and Phil picked up me, and we drove to Julia’s.

Mill ValleyThe area north of San Francisco – Marin County – is about as tony and pricey as you can imagine. It’s the 5th richest county in the country in terms of per capita income. It’s also one the most solidly democratic, and it’s the one where Nancy Pelosi is from.

Mill Valley’s main square where kids rollerblade and ride their tricycles and scooters. A bookstore/coffee shop is in the background. Good coffee places abound.

Mill Valley has a cute downtown, great boutique restaurants and hotels, and nice clothing stores. I got my hair washed and blow-dried at MilVali Salon, thus continuing my quest to get my hair done in as many places around the world as I can.

JTA California FamilyApril has been wet, which is wonderful news for Northern California. Still, the drought is near enough that you have to ask for water in a restaurant, and when you do get a glass, it’s a really small one, like a kiddie juice glass.

The redwoods are a distinctive part of the Northern California landscape, and they are revered. Here we are at Cypress Trail in Mill Valley in a redwood forest.

From left: Niece Julia holding daughter Maxine and baby Doyle, sister Carol, and me.

We also visited the Monterey Aquarium. It’s beautifully poised on one edge of Monterey Bay. The day we were there it was packed. I love going to museums filled with kids laughing and learning and having a good time.

I was amazed to see the diurnal (daytime) octopus who has figured out how to open a jar, get the food out, then reseal the jar. Here’s a video of it:

This feat is but one more example of how (many, but not all) humans underestimate the intelligence of the fellow creatures on our planet.

The Monterey Aquarium also has a cool Seafood Watch app that you can check at a restaurant as you’re deciding what to order. You have the following categories:

Best Choices: Buy first, they’re well managed and caught or farmed in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife.

Good Alternatives: Buy, but be aware there are concerns with how they’re caught or framed.

Avoid: Take a pass on these for now. They’re overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.

Download: Seafood Watch App

Global tally: Diurnal octopi score big for figuring out how to manipulate a human creation such as a jar. Humans score low for overfishing too many places.

One more instance of human (me, in this case) stupidity, which also comes in the form of a travel tip: Don’t leave your cash card at the ATM.

JTA Japan AirportReally. I just landed at the Osaka, Japan airport, took out my wallet to get my cash card to get some yen … and discovered the card was not there. I mentally retraced my steps and now realize I left it at an ATM in Carmel, California.

Uh … now what?

Me, the world traveler. I’ll figure it out. My best shot may be to try to channel some octopus intelligence.


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This post was written by Julie Andresen

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