A growing number of scientists are discovering that removing top predators from the wild has thrown ecosystems off-kilter, triggering domino effects that scientists are just beginning to understand. NOVA follows scientists who are trying out a simple but controversial solution: returning apex predators — like coyotes, bears and panthers — to their natural environments. Can these newly introduced predators restore the natural balance of their ecosystems without threatening the humans who live among them?
Today, researchers are discovering that some creatures have mastered skills purportedly restricted to humans. Many are bird brains. Meet a cockatoo with a talent for picking locks; a wild crow on a mission to solve an eight-step puzzle; and a tame raven who can solve a puzzle box so quickly that his performance has to be captured with high-speed photography. Are these skills really evidence of high intelligence or just parlor tricks, the result of training and instinct? To find out, NOVA tests the limits of some of the planet’s brainiest animals, searching for the secrets of a problem-solving mind.
What is it like to be a dog, a shark or a bird? This question is now getting serious attention from scientists who study animal senses. Humans rely on smell, sight, taste, touch and sound; other animals have super-powered versions of these senses, and a few have extra senses we don’t have at all. From a dog that seems to use smell to tell time to a dolphin that can “see” with its ears, discover how animals use their senses in ways we humans can barely imagine. But it’s not just the senses that are remarkable — it’s the brains that process them. NOVA goes into the minds of animals to “see” the world in an entirely new way.
What makes an animal smart? Many scientists believe the secret lies in relationships. Throughout the animal kingdom, some of the cleverest creatures — including humans — seem to be those who live in complex social groups, like dolphins, elephants and apes. Could the skills required to keep track of friend and foe make animals smarter? To find out, NOVA goes inside the social lives of some of the smartest animals on the planet.