Weekly News via Email
   Set as homepage | Add to favorites | Customer Service | Subscribe Now | Place an Ad | Contact Us | Sitemap Wednesday, 03.20.2019
News Archive
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
 1  2  3  4  5
 6  7  8  9  10  11  12
 13  14  15  16  17  18  19
 20  21  22  23  24  25  26
 27  28  29  30  31
Online Extras
Site Services
Around Bend
Outdoor Fun
Travel Info
Shop Local

Members Of

Poll: Today's Live Poll
Email to a friend | Print this | PDF version | Comments (0 posted) 
  Blogger |   del.icio.us |   digg |   newsvine

Jan 11,2008
What? Where? When? Some animals may know
by Bend Weekly News Sources

A long string of ex­pe­ri­ments over dec­ades have re­peat­edly found that an­i­mals aren’t as dumb as hu­mans tra­di­tion­ally thought they were and far from it. But are they act­ually con­scious?

Stud­ies have giv­en only vague glimpses of an an­swer. But some sci­en­tists have said an or­gan­ism must be con­scious if it has “ep­i­so­dic mem­o­ry.” This is ba­sic­ally the mem­o­ry of the “what, where and when” of events in life.

New re­search has found that some an­i­mals may have just this sort of mem­o­ry. 

The meadow vole Mi­cro­tus penn­syl­van­i­cus, a small ro­dent that tends to hide in tun­nels un­der the grass. It is one of the most com­mon small mam­mals in North Amer­i­ca. (Im­age cour­te­sy U.S. Nat'l Park Serv­ice)

Ro­dents known as mead­ow voles can “re­call the ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘when’” of a past ev­ent, re­search­ers wrote in the ti­tle of a new study pub­lished in the re­search jour­nal An­i­mal Cog­ni­tion.

Al­though past stud­ies had sug­gested such abil­i­ties in an­i­mals, they in­volved put­ting the crea­tures through tests that in­volved some train­ing, the au­thors said. That opened the re­sults to crit­i­cism that the train­ing could have af­fect­ed their be­hav­ior in some way that made the an­i­mals merely act as though they knew “what, where and when.” The new study in­volved no pre-train­ing. 

It ex­ploited the fact that fe­male voles, along with some oth­er an­i­mals, en­ter a pe­ri­od of peak sex­u­al re­cep­ti­vity just af­ter giv­ing birth. The some­what sur­pris­ing ten­den­cy may be ex­plained by the crea­tures’ short life­span, which com­pels them to pack a lot of re­pro­duc­tion in­to lit­tle time, said bi­ol­o­gist Mi­chael H. Fer­kin of the Un­ivers­ity of Mem­phis, Tenn., the stu­dy’s lead au­thor.

Male voles seem to be aware of the females’ pat­tern of re­cep­ti­vity. 

In one ex­pe­ri­ment, Fer­kin and col­leagues briefly put male voles in a cage that con­tained two cham­bers. One cham­ber con­tained a fe­male that was a day away from giv­ing birth. The oth­er con­tained a fe­male that was sex­u­ally ma­ture, but not due to be in a state of height­ened re­cep­ti­vity an­y­time soon.

A day lat­er, the males were placed in the same ap­pa­rat­us, which was now emp­ty and clean. The males in­i­tially “chose and spent sig­nif­i­cantly more time in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cham­ber that orig­i­nally housed the preg­nant fe­ma­le”—who would by now have en­tered peak re­cep­ti­vity, the re­search­ers wrote.

This sug­gested, they continued, that the males both re­called and used key in­for­ma­tion from the ear­li­er event: what was in the cage, where and when.

Un­der slightly al­tered con­di­tions, male voles showed no pref­er­ence for ei­ther side of the cage, they wrote. For in­stance, when only half an hour had passed since the in­i­tial ex­po­sure to the fe­ma­les, there was no pref­er­ence ap­par­ent. Nor were there any in cases in which a day had passed, but where the in­i­tial en­coun­ter was dif­fer­ent—with a peak-re­cep­ti­vity fe­male re­plac­ing the preg­nant fe­ma­le. The peak-re­cep­ti­vity fe­male would no long­er be in that state a day lat­er.

“The re­sults of these and ad­di­tion­al ex­pe­ri­ments sug­gest that male voles may have the ca­pa­city to re­call the ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘when’ of a sin­gle past event,” Fer­kin and col­leagues wrote in the pa­per, pub­lished in the jour­nal’s July 26 ad­vance on­line is­sue. This know­l­edge “may al­low males to re­mem­ber the loca­t­ion of fe­males who would cur­rently be in height­ened states of sex­u­al re­cep­ti­vity.”

The work “ap­pears to be a very thor­ough and care­fully done piece of re­search that makes a sol­id con­tri­bu­tion,” wrote psy­chol­o­gist Bill Roberts of the Un­ivers­ity of West­ern On­tar­i­o in Lon­don, On­tar­i­o, in an e­mail. “The con­trols used are im­pres­sive.” Roberts had ar­gued in a 2002 pa­per that re­search up to then sug­gested an­i­mals have no sense of time.

Fer­kin’s study does make at least one “ma­jor as­sump­tion,” Roberts added: that the males some­how know that the late-preg­nant fe­males will be re­cep­tive 24 hours lat­er. Anoth­er pos­si­ble problem, Fer­kin and col­leagues them­selves wrote, is that the ro­dents may just know how to make de­ci­sions based on how viv­id or faint a mem­o­ry is—with­out un­der­stand­ing that this de­pends on how much time has passed. In oth­er words, they might lack a real con­cept of time.

University of Tor­onto mem­ory re­search­er End­el Tulv­ing cited an­other, “mi­nor” quib­ble with the study. Voles have a very keen sense of smell, he noted. Per­haps—un­be­knownst to the hu­mans—even in cleaned, dis­in­fected cages, the ro­dents could sniff some­thing that cues their act­ions.

But overall, the find­ings add to a body of work sug­gesting an­i­mals have a ca­pa­city for “men­tal time trav­el,” Roberts wrote. For in­stance, past work sug­gested some apes can an­ti­cipate a fu­ture need for tools, and scrub jays re­mem­ber what kind of food they stored, where and when.

Courtesy World Science  

5656 times read

Related news
Sex-free shark birth startles scientists, and worries them by Bend_Weekly_News_Sources posted on May 25,2007

Science gives beauty some of its mystery back - for now by World Science Staff posted on Jan 04,2008

Fish logic surprises researchers by Stanford University and World posted on Jan 26,2007

Alien cells in rain? Study revisits bizarre theory by World-Science posted on Feb 01,2008

Drastic diet may extend human life, study finds by Bend_Weekly_News_Sources posted on Nov 16,2007

Did you enjoy this article? Rating: 4.69Rating: 4.69Rating: 4.69Rating: 4.69Rating: 4.69 (total 13 votes)

Market Information
Breaking News
Most Popular
Most Commented
Featured Columnist
Horoscope Guide
Aquarius Aquarius Libra Libra
Aries Aries Pisces Pisces
Cancer Cancer Sagittarius Sagittarius
Capricorn Capricorn Scorpio Scorpio
Gemini Gemini Taurus Taurus
Leo Leo Virgo Virgo
Local Attractions
Bend Visitors & Convention Bureau
Bend Visitors & Convention Bureau

Mt. Bachelor Resort
Mt. Bachelor Resort

Les Schwab Ampitheater
Les Schwab Ampitheater

Deschutes County Fairgrounds
Deschutes County

Tower Theatre
Tower Theatre

The High Desert Museum


Deschutes County

  Web    BendWeekly.com
© 2006 Bend Weekly News
A .Com Endeavors, Inc. Company.
All Rights Reserved. Terms under
which this service is provided to you.
Please read our Privacy Policy. Contact us.
Bend Weekly News & Event Guide Online
   Save the Net
External sites open in new window,
not endorsed by BendWeekly.com
Subscribe in NewsGator Online
Add to Google Add to MSN Add to My AOL
What are RSS headlines?