Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Memories of a Starfish

I came across an interesting open access paper by Martha R. Weiss, Douglas J. Blackiston and Elena Silva Casey in PLoS One (Volume 3 Issue 3 March 2008) describing how a moth conditioned to avoid a certain odour as a caterpillar, retained that aversion as an adult.  This only happened if the conditioning happened in later larval development (i.e. when the caterpillar was just a moulting or two away from pupation).  In other words, associative memory survives metamorphosis.

This leads me to wonder if the starfish retains the memories from when it was a larva, in particular does the luidia adult star fish have the same memories as the larva from which it has developed.  Furthermore, since the two selves - adult and junior - can exist at the same time, what would happen if they could talk and compare notes.  If puberty is indeed a form of incomplete metamorphosis it would be like myself as I am now - a empowered adult - remembering an incident that happened when I was a powerless child talking to a form of myself that is still that child.

I think the memories would be changed, just as all memories change as we try to recall them.  The adult starfish's memory would from the viewpoint of an animal with restricted mobility; whereas the larva's viewpoint would be little changed.  Maybe if they were to compare notes they would not agree: an unreliable witness encountering a reliable one.  They would argue indefinitely - one self against the same older self - each with an identical conviction they are right.


Blogger Kay Cooke said...

Hi Clare, I don't always comment but I enjoy keeping up with your blog. Fascinating re starfish and retained and transferred memories. Fascinating related conjectures re younger and older selves too.
I follow the blog Spitafields Life and the latest post happened to be about a silk manufacturing family - I immediately thought of you and thought you may be interested in this blog. I love it for the glimpses of London's past & the way it makes me feel that I am learning a little bit about what life may have been like for my own ancestors from that area of London. Anyway, hope you enjoy the link .

Tue May 28, 04:00:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Kay! It's kind of you to think of me. That's a fascinating site - and I just found out (by looking on the site) that a building a saw when I went down to Spitalfields a year or two ago may be open to the public this year. I'd love to see inside. I hope I can go.

Tue May 28, 08:08:00 am  
Blogger Kay Cooke said...

Lucky you! I'd love to go look at those places too ... we are going to France & Germany in June-July but not England this time .Glad you liked the site - I thought you would.

Sat Jun 01, 12:40:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Oooh France and Germany should be good! Wonderful places to see in both of those! Have a great time.

Sat Jun 01, 12:49:00 pm  

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