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When walking humans are taller than they are long. The neck being directly below the head helps support the weight of the head, and the body being directly below the neck also supports the weight of the head. The brain is so large that it causes the head to be significantly heavier than it would otherwise be.

Most animals, including most bipedal animals, are longer than they are tall even when they are walking.

Could an organism have intelligence comparable to humans while being longer than it is tall when walking or being active? If not on Earth would it be possible on a planet with lower gravity?

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    $\begingroup$ What exactly would prevent such an organism from being intelligent? Unless you give the community an actual problem, the only possible answer is yes, of course: you are the creator of your world; in that world you are the omnipotent god. Your will is law: you only have to want such organisms to be intelligent and they will be. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 21 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ The question also unintentionally assumes that the only animals that exist terrestrial tetrapods with limbs. Things like snakes,whales, worms, squid, and octopus exist. Even if you ignore those, things like moose with enormous antlers exist. OP also talks about being vertical as if it only entails survival advantages but forgets all the disadvantages. We humans have a lot of back problems because spines are best suited for supporting suspended loads horizontally rather than compressive vertically loads. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    May 21 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ Forget the weight of the head. An intelligent deer could argue that an organism like a human couldn't exist since it would buckle under its own body weight tiny headed or not. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    May 21 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ Octopus, Dolphins, dogs/wolves, cats, ants, bees, have all reported intelligence on some scale. I've even seen reference to whale intelligence. All would fit the "longer than tall" requirement. They could also presumably ask the same question of us, "can creatures that are taller than they are long experience any intelligence!" $\endgroup$ May 21 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ Why are you asking this question? Is it important that your world somehow reflect the scientific accuracy (if it exists) of the real world? Fiction is repleat with intelligent, horizontal creatures. Heck, the story of Adam and Eve has an intelligent serpent. But if you're looking for scientific accuracy, there is no example of reasoning, sapient, sentient creatures with human-like intellect other than humans. But that's boring. So why are you asking the question? $\endgroup$ May 22 at 3:13
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The human brain weighs around 1.3kg, which is around 2% of the mass of the entire human body. Many animals have adornments on their head with a higher mass, such as the elephant, with a 130kg trunk (about 3% of total mass), the irish elk, with 40kg antlers (about 6% of total mass), and the bighorn ram, with 14kg horns (about 10% of total mass). These examples demonstrate that a human-proportioned brain could easily be held even the largest creatures. But if you are still unconvinced, then there is another solution: Give the creature a vertical neck on its long body. This is even more ideal than our own form, as it would have all the head-support of our own form, but with the possibility of a greater number of legs to support the entire body. The only real problem with this idea is that it'd be unlikely to evolve in nature, if that is necessary for your purposes

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  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps the most extreme example is the giraffe. The bending moment caused by the long neck is extreme. $\endgroup$ May 22 at 0:00
  • $\begingroup$ I accepted this answer because it was the one to give examples of animals with head parts proportionally bigger than a human brain in non human animals. $\endgroup$ May 23 at 4:49
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Of course.

Humans have filled an evolutionary niche as a relatively-long-lived, highly intelligent, social, tool-using species. Our bauplan has little to do with this other than the fact we have fine dexterity in our hands, and big brains. However, lots of animals can manipulate objects roughly as well as apes (e.g. parrots, octopi), so all you need for the rest is a social species and a large, densely-connected brain and decent lifespan. The social aspect is important because without a way for information to be disseminated, abstract concepts would be too difficult for every lone creature to grasp independently. And without a long enough lifespan for the learning to take place, any kind of "societal progress" likely won't arise. Thank heaven octopi don't live very long!

Remember: The main reason most chordates on Earth have a central nervous system is that they all share a common ancestral species, not necessarily because that's the best or only setup that gives rise to high intelligence. But there's no reason life on an alien planet should have to evolve the same way (though a bipedal upright gait is much more efficient than quadrupedal). If you want to get creative with your longer-than-it-is-tall species, nothing is stopping it from having an elongated brain instead of a round one. In such a creature, maybe the brain runs along the spinal column in a protected area, like a shell. This avoids a heavier head, though as other users have pointed out, the weight isn't particularly bad for other mammals here on Earth, anyway.

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Yes, without question

Intelligence is linked primarily to the extent that an organism can sense and manipulate it's environment. Humans are smart because we evolved hands that can manipulate our surrounds with unprecedented accuracy and dexterity. Apes, who have hands less optimized for tool making and environment manipulation are less intelligent than humans, but still far more intelligent than most other animals. So the question is: can we conceive of an organism longer than it is tall that can sense and manipulate it's environment with a high level precision and versatility? Yes of course we can.

It's important to note that some creature are intelligent without being able to manipulate their environment with precision, such as dolphins. So a better way to phrase the above question is: can we conceive of an organism longer than it is tall that has a strong evolutionary incentive to be as smart as a human. Again, the answer is unequivocally yes.

Recall that a brain doesn't necessarily have to be large to be smart (poodles are the smartest dogs, but they don't have the biggest brain), nor does it have to be housed or one end or the other of the body, so the weight of the brain is irrelevant in this case. Beyond that, humans are an unusually fragile species, so it's feasible that a (perhaps denser) creature could support a heavy head without any problem)

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It seems perfectly posible for animals which arelonger than they are tall to have intelligence.

On Earth there are many species of large mammals which have brain sizes similar to humans an/or observed behavior indicating that they might have similar intelligence to humans. Thus there could be between about 1 and about 100 mammal species on Earth at the present time which are intelligent and count as people.

The primate species which are possibly intelligent tend to be like humans and taller than they are long. That leaves three species of proboscideans which are usually longer than they are tall, and about 80 species of cetaceans which are several times as long as they are tall.

And all of those proboscidean and cetacean species are either intelligent beings and people or else so close to being intelligent beings and people that they prove that beings with their body plans can be intelligent beings and people.

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