Hi.  have any tests been conducted to measure the intellegence of bears such as grizzly, panda and polar bears?  how intellegent are bears?  any ideas? thanks.

I am not aware fo any explicit tests on bear intelligence Martin, but this is no real surprise. Bears are large dangerous non-domesticated animals so testing them would be very difficult and expensive. Obviously things like mice, cats, various primates and elephants make much better candidates for various reasons, and of course we as humans and researchers are generally more interested in those animlas that show a high level of intelligence (like apes and dolphins). As ever with these kinds of direct testing, part of the problem is getting the animals to do something we can relate to, and can fairly compare the animals to each other. Dolphins are clearly very smart, but their anatomy (i.e. no hands!) prevents them from solving puzzles in the way we can test gorillas, so compring them to each other is very hard.

In realtive terms, I would expect bears to be on a level with other carnivores - they do have to catch prey and thet requires a level of 'intelligence', but of course most are not pure predators, and nor are they social animals and thus would not require the level of intellect of a wolf or lion for example. I guess you could probably bracket bears with something like otters, badgers and some cats, but anything beyond that would be pretty speculative.

Being a little unfair on otters and badgers there!  The larger mustelids such as giant otters and sea otters use rudimentary tools and many otter species live in big social groups with complex social interactions.  The smaller mustelids (ferrets, stoats) are a little more comparable to domestic cats with regards intelligence.

Coming back to Martin's questions as a rough rule of thumb intelligence is often well correlated foraging/hunting behaviour and an animal's level of socialisation. Social hunters and omnivores, such as humans, dogs and dolphins, are often regarded as most intelligent.  This is followed by either solo hunters (such as cats, ferrets) or social herbivores (such as cows or sheep). At the bottom of the intelligence pile are lone living herbivores.  This is only a very rough guide as there are plenty of very examples intelligent herbivores (i.e. elephants).

As David says, I'm not aware of explicit tests for bear intelligence.  But explicit testing is only really possible if you can easily get an animal into an appropriate testing environment.  An easy task when you consider mice and chimps, not such an easy thing for whales or bears. In lieu of such tests many other markers are often used to make an estimate animal intelligence and these include; the size of the animal's social group, the complexity of the animal's social interactions in the wild, whether an animal is capable of learning and using tools, the complexity and number of the animal's communication signals and also the size and complexity of the animal's neo-cortex.

Whoops, I should have though about sea otters as tool users, but that is news to be about gaint otters? What tools are thy known to use and how? Yes in hindsight badgers and otters are both social, I was trying to think of large-ish solitary animals, and for soem reason for got that those are both normally social (though of course not all species are).

You may be particularly interested in Ben Kilham's research: although his ideas are not accepted by qualified biologists who study bears, he has proposed that bears are similar to primates in intelligence, and has devised various experiments that might test this. Last I heard, he had not documented any evidence supporting such intelligence. Google his name for more info.