How are aquatic species' brains adapted to the marine environment?

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Danielle Nelson

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Danielle Nelson  asked the Naked Scientists:
Hi Naked Scientists,

I just discovered your podcast yesterday, and I love it - what a great way to pass the time at work!

I had a question about the piece you did on the grid in the entorhinal cortex.  

I work in marine bioacoustics studying baleen whales, and one of the things that is always stressed here is how three-dimensional the ocean environment is, much more so than our land-based environment that we're used to.

When you guys were talking about the grid in our brain, I started wondering about how three-dimensional that grid would be, and whether or not it's similar in marine mammals, or possibly more geared toward a very three-dimensional space.  

When you think about it, a lot of our navigation through the world as humans happens on a relatively flat plane, so it would be interesting if there was an extension of our grid system into marine mammals.  What do you think?  Would an extension of the grid to accommodate increased perception in 3 dimensions be a possibility in the big whales I'm familiar with?

I'm not actually a scientist (I just pretend to be one and listen to whales), so I don't know if the question has any merit at all, but I figured I'd ask!

Danielle Nelson
Ithaca, NY.

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 22/02/2010 11:30:03 by _system »


Offline LeeE

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Hmm... dunno, but you also might want to consider the brains of arboreal primates, gymnasts, aeroplane pilots (especially those who specialise in aerobatics) and the brains of birds.  The perception and coordination abilities of small hedgerow birds, that you're likely to find in your garden, are especially interesting: their ability to fly into a complex tree or hedgerow structure and quickly choose a landing place, and then execute the maneuver is extraordinary.
...And its claws are as big as cups, and for some reason it's got a tremendous fear of stamps! And Mrs Doyle was telling me it's got magnets on its tail, so if you're made out of metal it can attach itself to you! And instead of a mouth it's got four arses!