Brain Power: An Excerpt from The Octopus and the Orangutan: More True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity
Dim-wittedness is the one thing that unites nature’s most durable creatures, from sea turtles to jellyfish to paddlefish to nematodes. Short-lived prolific bugs tend to weather crises, as do some deepwater creatures, well insulated from events above, for instance, but there is little correlation between brain size and a species’ long-term survival.
Nature is loath to tamper with success, and it is loath to lay on brains where they are not needed. How and why brains develop in some animals and not in others is a mystery. The random mutations that increase brain size are probably ubiquitous, meaning that it is reasonable to expect that virtually every animal alive today has ancestors that produced brainier offspring which in turn had the chance to be fruitful and multiply. But the evidence is that with very few exceptions, evolutionary experiments to increase brain power have not taken. During the march of evolution, many animals have gotten smarter in the way we define it, but not much smarter. The likelihood is that nature has had more failures than successes when it comes to increasing brain size (and in evolutionary terms, the jury is still out on whether the human experiment will ultimately be a success or failure, but more about that later).
From The Octopus and the Orangutan: More True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity
Connect With Us:
ANIMATION: Hydrangea Colors: It’s All in the Soil
The Hydrangea macrophylla (big-leafed hydrangea) plant is the only known plant that can 'detect' the pH level in surrounding soil!
One of the world’s most popular ornamental flowers, it conceals a bouquet of biological and biochemical surprises. The iconic “snowball” shaped hydrangea blooms are a common staple of backyard gardens.
Hydrangea colors ultimately depend on the availability of aluminum ions(Al3+) within the soil.
To view all multimedia content, click "Latest Multimedia"!
An early peek at each new issue, with descriptions of feature articles, columns, and more. Every other issue contains links to everything in the latest issue's table of contents.News of book reviews published in American Scientist and around the web, as well as other noteworthy happenings in the world of science books.
To sign up for automatic emails of the American Scientist Update and Scientists' Nightstand issues, create an online profile, then sign up in the My AmSci area.