Thursday, September 04, 2008

Cthulhu-ian Biology

Cuttlefish Embryo Stares Hungrily Outside It's Egg
Chrispy often wonders that IF Lovecraft's creation of Cthulhu were real what would that god-like creature be like? I suppose, first of all, Cthulhu like all eldritich extraterrestrails was made of a complex blend of dark energies and dark matters. These extraterrestrials have form and substance, but exist with somewhat diferent physical properties. They are near-eternal, sleep or exist in strange dimensions, and have but one seeming purpose - to seek greater wisdoms leaving humans insane in their wake.

Sooo - why did Cthulhu pick the cephalopod model to emulate? Not human, not bacterial, not avain, not reptillian, but cephalopodian. (Because Lovecraft hated sea life odors, but let's not be literal, ok?).

Because, aeons ago when the eldritch extraterrestrials appeard on Earth, the most intellingent creature was the cephalopod in all it's rich varieties and species.

Today, we're going to look at the (real) biology of the cuttlefish. Real science is more incredible than fiction.

Embryos can learn visually

By Susan Milius
July 2nd, 2008

Cuttlefish embryos that develop in their translucent eggs with crabs nearby hatch into youngsters with a distinct preference for eating crabs, says Ludovic Dickel of the University of Caen in France. Without that pre-hatch view of crabs, the little cuttlefish attack shrimp in preference to crabs, he and his colleagues report in the July Animal Behaviour.

The preference develops from sight alone, Dickel says. The researchers kept the crabs in containers that prevented crab scents from getting into the water with the eggs.

Earlier work by the cuttlefish team showed that within a few hours of hatching, the babies need only one good look at crabs to develop a preference for them. Now the window of learning seems to be open even before hatching, Dickel says.

Other research teams have demonstrated that embryos start learning scents and sounds, Dickel says. Laughing gull chicks respond readily to parental crooning if they heard the sound repeatedly while still in the egg; and ants base their sense of who's a nestmate on smells they experienced as larvae.

Cuttlefish offered a chance to test for visual learning because of their remarkable embryo eyes and the translucence of the egg coverings. When the mother lays the eggs, the view is obscured by the black cuttlefish ink. As the eggs approach the time of hatching, they swell to the point where the embryos can see through the translucent outer covering.

This test provides the first demonstration in any animal that embryos can learn the sights around them, says Dickel.

“In the world in general, I think visual learning in embryos is surprising and cool,” said Karen Warkentin of Boston University, when she heard about the work. She studies defense reactions of frog embryos. “To me,” she added, “I don’t think it is so surprising — in that I’m used to frog embryos being able to do more than most people expect.”

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