--- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com
, Charles Palm <palmcharlesUU@...> wrote:
> David Williams: My introduction to biofilms was an infection in my leg. The
> streptococcus banded together and cooperated. There was a central slime
> city that tunneled through my flesh in a radial pattern. At the end of each
> radius, was a new colony. The bacteria exhibited a rudimentary
> intelligence, communicating with each other through chemical signals. When
> they do this, they are harder to get rid of.
James A Shapiro: Living cells and organisms are cognitive (sentient)
entities that act and interact purposefully to ensure survival, growth,
and proliferation. They possess corresponding sensory, communication,
information-processing, and decision-making capabilities. Cells are built
to evolve; they have the ability to alter their hereditary characteristics
rapidly through well-described natural genetic engineering and epigenetic
processes as well as by cell mergers.
David Williams: You like to quote the above a lot. I put the stuff earlier about endosymbiosis because it is an example of cell mergers. You may also have read in Dr. Shapiro's book about horizontal gene transfer. One example of this is the transfer of antibiotic resistance between unrelated bacteria. Another example is the transfer of genes from mitochondria to the cell nucleus. Mitochondria cannot make all of its proteins anymore even though it has a nucleus. It can make some, but the cell makes the rest.
One can read about sentient bacteria that can band together in a biofilm and show intelligent cooperation and then one can watch it try to kill. It was scary.
Dr. Shapiro calls his hypothesis, natural genetic engineering. I think it might also be referred to as evolution through intelligent design, with the intelligent agents being the cells themselves.
Some people seem to me to think of an intelligent agent as some kind of project engineer who designs life forms in some kind of office in another dimension. There is no way a present to scientifically detect such activity. But the work of cellular intelligent agents can be scientifically studied.
Collective intelligence: Ants and brain's neurons
STANFORD - An individual ant is not very bright, but ants in a colony, operating as a collective, do remarkable things.
A single neuron in the human brain can respond only to what the neurons connected to it are doing, but all of them together can be Immanuel Kant.
That resemblance is why Deborah M. Gordon, Stanford University assistant professor of biological sciences, studies ants.
"I'm interested in the kind of system where simple units together do behave in complicated ways," she said.
No one gives orders in an ant colony, yet each ant decides what to do next.
For instance, an ant may have several job descriptions. When the colony discovers a new source of food, an ant doing housekeeping duty may suddenly become a forager. Or if the colony's territory size expands or contracts, patroller ants change the shape of their reconnaissance pattern to conform to the new realities. Since no one is in charge of an ant colony - including the misnamed "queen," which is simply a breeder - how does each ant decide what to do?
This kind of undirected behavior is not unique to ants, Gordon said. How do birds flying in a flock know when to make a collective right turn? All anchovies and other schooling fish seem to turn in unison, yet no one fish is the leader.
Each ant has its prescribed task, but the ants can switch tasks if the collective needs it. An ant on housekeeping duty will decide to forage. No one told it to do so and Gordon and other entomologists don't know how that happens.
"No ant can possibly know how much food everybody is collecting, how many foragers are needed," she said. "An ant has to have very simple rules that tell it, 'OK, switch and start foraging.' But an ant can't assess globally how much food the colony needs.
"I've done perturbation experiments in which I marked ants according to what task they're doing on a given day. The ants that were foraging for food were green, those that were cleaning the nest were blue and so on. Then I created some new situation in the environment; for example, I create a mess that the nest maintenance workers have to clean up or I'll put out extra food that attracts more foragers.
"It turns out that ants that were marked doing a certain task one day switch to do a different task when conditions change."
David Williams: I found out about the intelligent behavior or red ants in Oklahoma one 4th of July. I put a fire cracker in an ant hill and lit it. Immediately, a platoon of red ants marched up the fire cracker and put out the fuse with their abdomens. While I was watching this with fascination, 2 other platoons marched up my legs and bit me. I never tried to blow up ant hills again.
From above again "This kind of undirected behavior is not unique to ants, Gordon said. How do birds flying in a flock know when to make a collective right turn? All anchovies and other schooling fish seem to turn in unison, yet no one fish is the leader."
David Williams: Intelligent behavior does not necessarily have to be directed by a marionette.
An animal does not need a brain to see:
Jellyfish Have Human-Like Eyes
Tropical-dwelling box jellyfish have a cube-shaped body, and four different types of special-purpose eyes: The most primitive set detects only light levels, but another is more sophisticated and can detect the color and size of objects.
A set of special eyes, similar to our own, keeps venomous box jellyfish from bumping into obstacles as they swim across the ocean floor, a new study finds.
Unlike normal jellyfish, which drift in the ocean current, box jellyfish are active swimmers that can rapidly make 180-degree turns and deftly dart between objects. Scientists suspect that box jellyfish are such agile because one set of their 24 eyes detects objects that get in their way.
"Behavior-wise, they're very different from normal jellyfish," said study leader Anders Garm of Lund University in Swede
Box jellyfish most visibly differ from the Scyphozoan jellyfish in that they are umbrella shaped, rather than domed or crown-shaped. The underside of the umbrella includes a flap, or velarium, concentrating and increasing the flow of water expelled from the umbrella. As a result, box jellyfish can move more rapidly than other jellyfish. In fact, speeds of up to six meters per minute have been recorded.
The box jellyfish's nervous system is also more developed than that of many other jellyfish. Notably, they possess a nerve ring around the base of the umbrella that coordinates their pulsing movements; a feature found elsewhere only in the crown jellyfish. Whereas some other jellyfish do have simple pigment-cup ocelli, box jellyfish are unique in the possession of true eyes, complete with retinas, corneas and lenses. Their eyes are located on each of the four sides of their bell in clusters called rhopalia. This enables them to see specific points of light, as opposed to simply distinguishing between light and the dark. Box jellies also retain the lesser type of eye[clarification needed], because the strong eyes[clarification needed] are only one of four subsets. They therefore have 24 eyes. A box jellyfish has the closest thing a known jellyfish has to a brain. Tests have shown that they have a limited memory, and have a limited ability to learn.