It is hard to deny the intellectual prowess of those with a prominent and bulbous pre-frontal cortex. Responsible for higher cognition and executive functions that include, but are not limited to the capacity to make decisions, orchestrate thoughts, and interpret abstractions, this master of meta-cognition has enabled our primate lineage to transcend a life in the trees to one among others in a creative civilization.
While the frontal cortex is an oft cited reason for many of our unique qualities, recent research now suggests that we humans may not be so special. For example, the diminutive chihuahua has a bigger brain per unit body mass than the typical human. What’s more, the gregarious California sea lion has a larger frontal cortex than well respected primates like baboons and gibbons. As if this is not humiliating enough, it appears that the lowly llama has a pre-frontal cortex that exceeds that of a macaque monkey (Kaufman, 2013).
The cognitive superiority I have proudly worn for the past 50 years has recently suffered yet another indignity. While my pre-frontal cortex continues to search for meaning to that which I witnessed this weekend, I can confidently state that I have been bested by a lowly rodent. The beavers I have watched and photographed with a strange obsessive passion have now conspired to outsmart my big brain and thus deny me access to my voyeuristic perch. What you see in this collection of photographs is the work of a small group of radicals who managed to reengineer my once unfettered view. What is so amazing and beyond my cognitive grasp is how these thumbless engineers managed to do so much in only 7 days… at this point, one has to ponder the value of a large pre-frontal cortex when a small pack of bucked toothed scaly tails can do so much with so little.
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