Do chimpanzees understand why those who can't see them don't offer them treats?
Do vampire bats have the ability to show gratitude by returning a favor?
The answers depend on what is meant by "think," according to University of Florida psychology Professor Clive Wynne, who writes about these creature features and others in a new 244-page book, "Do Animals Think?" being published this month by Princeton University Press.
While animals can do many clever things and even reason, they don't have the ability to reflect on what they are doing, one important element of thinking, said Wynne, who has studied animal behavior for 20 years in a variety of species ranging from pigeons to marsupials.
"Animals can learn, but whether learning always implies thinking is the question," he said. "Perhaps the take-home message is that each species thinks in its own way, a way that is adapted to the world it lives in."
Wynne said he decided to write the book after noticing that a number of "facts" about animals presented on popular television shows didn't stand up to closer inspection. Based on a careful study of publications in the field, he debunks some common myths, such as that chimpanzees understand language and dolphins use a sophisticated language based on their underwater vocalizations.
"This book takes a critical, iconoclastic and witty look at the claims for intelligence and language in other species, often made by sincere-if-fluffy and sometimes just self-promoting scientists," said Jonathan Marks, a molecular anthropologist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and author of the book "What it Means to be 98 percent Chimpanzee: Apes, People and their Genes." He said, "I had more fun reading this book than I have had from any other book in a long time."