Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Laura. Laura Wonders, “Does brain size matter?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Laura!
Are you smart? Of course, you are! If you're WONDERing about ant brains and elephant brains with us today, then you're obviously a curious knowledge seeker who likes to put the brain to good use!
One thing you've probably already guessed by now is that ant brains are tiny! Ants themselves are tiny, so their brains have to be even smaller to fit inside their little heads. Elephants, on the other hand, are very large creatures. So it's no surprise to learn that an elephant's brain is quite large.
Just how big is an elephant brain? Scientists tell us that the average human brain weighs about three pounds. That's pretty big, given the size of a human being. Elephant brains weigh in at a hefty 11-13 pounds — about four times the size of the human brain. In fact, elephants have the largest brain of any land mammal. Compared to a tiny ant brain, the elephant's brain is thousands of times larger!
But does brain size determine intelligence? Not necessarily! If it did, you'd have to assume that ants are really dumb and elephants are smarter than humans. That's not true, though.
When thinking about brain size, it's helpful to compare the size of the brain to the size of its owner. While elephant brains are huge, so are elephants! If you compare the ratio of brain to body weight in humans and elephants, you learn that this ratio is about 1:50 for humans and about 1:800 for elephants. So, for their size, humans have much bigger brains than elephants.
But what about ants? We're glad you asked! Of all the insects in the world, the ant can claim to have the largest brain. In fact, some scientists believe the ant has the largest brain in proportion to its size of any creature on Earth!
Experts estimate that an ant brain contains about 250,000 brain cells. That number pales in comparison to the human brain, which is believed to contain over 86 billion neurons. However, for the ant, its brain is quite powerful. Ants are widely considered to be the smartest insect in the world.
Likewise, elephants are also known for their intelligence. Even though their brains aren't all that big compared to their huge size, they're still quite powerful. In fact, elephants are known for having exceptional memories.
If size of the brain doesn't necessarily correlate to intelligence, how can we know how smart certain creatures are? Like scientists have known for many years, the brain is an incredibly complex organ that can't be fully understood in simple terms, such as size. Although scientists have learned a lot about the brain over the past hundred years, much of how the brain works remains a mystery.
When a scientist looks at a particular creature's brain, its size — when compared to the overall size of the creature — might give some indication of intelligence. However, much more study must be done to make any real conclusions about the creature's overall level of intelligence.