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Re: Bird Brains...er Dino Brains

Apologies in advance for the reply if this is off topic...

<GOBI 2010 wrote:
 In AP Biology I learned that intelligence may be caused not by brain
 mass, but by the development of a critter's neaural networks and how
 neurons are connected. >

Intelligence is a concept that is amazingly hard to measure or define in
operational terms, mostly because there's raging debate (peer-reviewed
and otherwise) in philosophy, psychology, and neurology as to what
exactly constitutes intelligence.  And that's just for humans!  

I think that it's reasonable to assume that organisms with more
"intelligence" will have a correlated increase in neuronal connections,
but I don't think that an increase in CNS neuron connections implies
"greater" intelligence.  And whales, for example, have massive brains,
of which most seems to be for processing auditory information. But are
whales aware of their own thoughts?  Depends on many times you've
watched Star Trek IV. 

By making brain casts from reconstructed skulls, you might be able to
discern which _areas_ of the brain underwent extensive development. 
>From there, you might be able to infer a little about the ways in which
that might influence behavior.  However, since animals are not often
fossilized in the midst of complex actions (certain notable exceptions
leap readily to mind,) I don't think you'd be able to say much about
behavior with a great deal of certainty, basing your argument solely on
brain casts.

<I also learned, from one or so of my Bird Talk
 Magazines that are laying scattered about my room, that parrots, such
 the African Gray Parrot, have roughly the intelligence of a 5-6 year
 child. >

The evidence for animal intelligence has, in the past, been fraught with
very, very subtle experimenter bias, and animals cueing into
physiological cues that the experimenter is not aware they are sending. 
If this area interests you, you should search for information on "Hans
the Counting Horse" (a very old and famous case of 'animal
intelligence') and the chimpanzee "language" controversy.  I'll send
ref's as soon as I can dig them up.  

My advice:  Question all forms of "intelligence" measuring closely. 
Question twice as hard for animals.

< Knowing this, it made me wonder...
 how can people say dinosaurs are stupid or smart animals? And how would
 one figure out the intelligence of an extinct animal? Do they have
 brains more like reptiles or more like birds, somewhere in between, or
 does it depend on the species,etc?>

The $64K answer:  *shrug shoulders.*  As smart as they needed to be.

Pete Murray
UG Cognitive Psychologist
Took Dr. Holtz's Class On Dinosaurs. 

> Jessica Wagar
> Amateur Paleontologist
> Michigan,USA
> http://server1.hypermart.net/gobi2010/index.htm