A dolphin in the water.

Inside Animal Minds: Who's The Smartest?

What would it be like to go inside the mind of an animal? We have all gazed into a creature's eyes and wondered: what is it thinking about? What does it really know? Now, the revolutionary science of animal cognition is revealing hard evidence about how animals understand the world around them, uncovering their remarkable problem-solving abilities and exploring the complexity of their powers of communication and even their emotions. In this mini-series, NOVA explores these breakthroughs through three iconic creatures: dogs, birds and dolphins. We'll travel into the spectacularly nuanced noses of dogs and wolves, and ask whether their reliance on different senses has shaped their evolution. We'll see through the eyes of a starling in flight and test the tool-using skills of the smartest of birds, the crow. We'll listen in as scientists track dolphins in the Caribbean and elephants on the African savannah, trying to unlock the secrets of animal communication.

As we discover how researchers are pushing the animal mind to its limits, we'll uncover surprising similarities to -- and differences from -- the human mind. 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.

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Full Episodes

Upcoming Airdates

A to Z: The First Alphabet

Writing shaped civilization itself, from the trading of goods to tales of ancient goddesses and kings. Follow the evolution of the written word, from millennia-old carvings in an Egyptian turquoise mine to our modern-day alphabets.

  • 2020-09-27T15:00:00-07:00
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  • 2020-09-27T18:00:00-07:00
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A to Z: How Writing Changed The World

Just as handwritten records changed how societies work, the printing press transformed the spread of information, igniting the Industrial Revolution. How did technologies -- from pen to paper to printing press -- make it all possible?

  • 2020-10-02T05:00:00-07:00
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  • 2020-10-04T15:00:00-07:00
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  • 2020-10-04T18:00:00-07:00
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Animal Espionage

Camera traps and drones are revolutionizing the study of wildlife by providing an up-close look at animals without disturbing them. See how these technologies are helping us understand everything from mysterious whale behavior to tiger migration.

  • 2020-10-09T05:00:00-07:00
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  • 2020-10-11T15:00:00-07:00
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  • 2020-10-11T18:00:00-07:00
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Nature's Fear Factor

When top predators disappeared from Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park, other animals fell into unusual patterns. Now scientists are reintroducing wild dogs to restore the park's "landscape of fear" and with it the natural balance of the ecosystem.

  • 2020-10-16T05:00:00-07:00
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  • 2020-10-18T15:00:00-07:00
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  • 2020-10-18T18:00:00-07:00
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Touching The Asteroid

If spacecraft OSIRIS-REx can grab a piece of an asteroid and bring it back to Earth, scientists could gain great insight into our planet's origins, and even how to defend against rogue asteroids. But NASA only gets three shots at collecting a sample.

  • 2020-10-23T05:00:00-07:00
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  • 2020-10-25T15:00:00-07:00
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  • 2020-10-25T18:00:00-07:00
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