Make a list of the world's smartest animals, and it's bound to include a few familiar faces. Chimpanzees, dolphins, and elephants are always among the usual suspects. But the more scientists learn about animal intelligence, the more surprises about our fellow creatures they discover. Some animals are adept at creative problem solving, some display emotional intelligence, and still, others teach what they learn to their young. At least one primate can communicate about the past. And the smartest-animals-on-earth club includes a few unexpected members.

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1. Orangutans

Our closest animal relatives, according to the latest research, have impressive intellectual skills. Orangutans are better than children at solving problems with tools they make themselves. In experiments, Orangutans consistently make fishing hooks to retrieved food more successfully than eight-year-olds. And they are the only non-human primates that can talk about past events to plan future actions — waiting to warn others of danger, for example, until it's safe to do so.

Mother and baby orangutans Rebecca Nelson / Getty Images
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