Researchers at Vanderbilt University in the USA state of Tennessee recently studied the brains of several meat-eating mammals, including dogs, cats, lions, raccoons and bears. But one of the scientists who conducted the research says it's not quite that simple.
Suzana Herculano-Houzel, associate professor of psychology and biological sciences, developed the method of accurately measuring the number of neurons in the brains.
So why all the headlines declaring dogs are smarter? And raccoons, despite their smaller brain size, had nearly as many neurons in their cerebral cortex as dogs. The other animals came from a variety of sources ― including some that were caught in the wild and some that were euthanized "as zoo management decisions", she said.
Herculano-Houzel said that studying the brains of different species is important.
Those interested in learning more are encouraged to check out the results of the study in a paper titled, "Dogs have the most neurons, though not the largest brain: Trade-off between body mass and number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of large carnivoran species" in the open access journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.
She acknowledged that the researchers' sample size was small. "And we're trying to figure out what difference that makes". Neurons are the "little grey cells" that are associated with things like planning, thinking and complex behavior. For example, she added, humans have about twice as many cortical neurons as gorillas. Their intense battle over 'who is better?' - the dogs or cats - is likely to end, as recent studies have finally put a nail in the coffin. But researchers still can't be sure whether dogs are using that capability to its full potential.
This isn't the first study that considers cat and dog intelligence.
As Suzana, a self-proclaimed "100 percent dog person" claims, "At the least, we now have some biology that people can factor into their discussions about who's smarter, cats or dogs".
But look ― why turn this into a fight?
Dogs are believed to have about 530 million cortical neurons, while cats have about 250 million.Creative Commons.