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Head- and Brainless

Is learning something then still possible?

I love the questions that children have. Why isn’t the sun alive? What would happen if we had eyes also on the back of our head, like spiders? And, can we live without a brain?

Well, occasionally anencephalic children are born and they lack almost the entire brain. Few live longer than a few days after birth, but there is a case of an anencephalic infant having been kept alive for almost 3 years. And there is the famous legend of the 15th-century pirate Klaus Störtebeker, who was captured to be beheaded along with his crew. According to the legend, he struck a deal with the executioner that those men of his crew that he’d run past, after being decapitated, should get their freedom. And how many men did the headless Störtebeker then pass in order to save them: 11 according to the legend. —>—>

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Give a Little – and Take a Little

Increases of some structures appear to parallel decreases in others

It seems odd, but no animal with horns or antlers, whether fossil or recent, has all the teeth required to give it the complete and full dentition characteristics of mammals. No species of spider is known to possess the ability to sting, but all have a poisonous bite (although, luckily only a few possess poisons potent enough to harm humans). The most colourful birds like tropical parrots and Papua New Guinea birds-of-paradise leave a lot to be desired when it comes to their ability to sing and the increase in swim speeds of fish like the tuna apparently went hand in hand with the loss of the buoyancy organ, the swim bladder. There are lots more of such examples, but what am I trying to demonstrate with these examples? I’m trying to show that the development in one area frequently has consequences in another and that a “push” in one evolutionary direction can see a reversal in another. —>—>

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The Transplantable Time-Memory

Something to be looked at again

In the heart-warming Japanese movie “Hachiko”, a dog by that very name day after day heads to the station at precisely the right time the train with his master Professor Ueno in it is expected to pull in. Even after its master’s death, Hachiko continues for many years to be at the station at the correct time, waiting for its master. When I told this to my wife, she said that our cat Pompom would also turn up from somewhere in the garden every afternoon at about the same time to be fed. Well, I suppose the cat’s food ration lasts exactly 24 hours and then the cat’s stomach tells it that it’s feeding time again. So, I replied that my fish in the aquarium also know the time when food is plopped into the tank every morning and that their waiting for it to happen, indicates they are as smart as our cat. Continue reading