Daily Archives: March 2, 2011

Mental Maps in Sharks

Mental maps are interesting. I recently heard about reserch being done at the University of Minnesota in which it can be shown that rats develop a mental map of a maze, then later, when faced with moments of decision, pause in real space to run through alternative routes of the map in their heads. They have also been observed to dream the maps. We know that certain birds develop mental maps of their long distance migration routes, and these maps can be identified and differentiated in the neural tissue. Now, there is research showing that sharks have mental maps.

Some shark species make “mental maps” of their home ranges, allowing them to pin-point destinations up to 50km (30 miles) away, research suggests.

US-based scientists analysed data from tiger sharks tagged with acoustic transmitters, and found that they took directed paths from place to place.

Other species such as blacktip reef sharks did not show this behaviour.

Funny how all these animals with much less cultural learning and much less cerebral tissue (relatively speaking) have complex and detailed neural information that is entirely learned, but when humans vary in almost any way related to behavior there are so many people who insist that it must be caused by information encoded over the ages in their genes.