MAYA-GAIA INTRODUCTION & SITEMAP Page Update 08 24 07
Note: My Anthropic Trilogy web-book, evolving since 1997, is a chronicle of my passing all considered opinion through the lens of my Nirvikalpa Samadhi with both an open-mind and healthy skepticism.
Exploring epigenisis and embodied cognition effecting the sexual dimorphisim in the evolution of diverse species of birds of paradise and bowerbirds.
These evolutionary processes may also have shaped the ability of a young human child - unique among all animals - to spontaneously perform motor skill in precise synchronization to musical beats and tempo.
In biology, epigenesis has at least two distinct meanings:
1.The unfolding development in an organism, and in particular the development of a plant, fungi or animal from a seed, spore or egg through a sequence of steps in which cells differentiate and organs form;
2. The theory that plants, animals and fungi develop in this way, in contrast to theories of preformationism.
A well-known example of epigenesis is that of the honey bee. Larvae that are fed with a pollen and nectar diet develop into worker bees, while those fed royal jelly develop into queens, growing larger and with different morphology.
Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds by Louise Barrett, 2011. An excellent review of all the key pieces to embodied cognition, including Gibson's ecological approach to perception and action, dynamical systems theory and summaries of some key empirical research on the A-not-B error and a fascinating chapter on how the Portia spider uses embodied action to hunt other spiders using mimicry and deception, as well as some robot crickets that contain only very simple body parts but produce all kinds of adaptive complex behaviour.
The incremental modular evolutionary epigenesis of male courtship displays - to stay ahead of younger male deception - only begins to explain the extreme range of orchestration of movement, sound, and UV-enhanced feather coloration in birds of paradise. See Video.
It suggests that epigenesis - the inheritance of signals acquired from one generation's environment can influence the genetic profile so that there is herited integration that enhances mating and/or survival success in the next generation. Slight anomalies in rhythm of wing or appendage display or vocalization may be a major epigenetic factor in the extreme evolution of these tropical species from their relatively drab ancestry of jays and crows.
The courtship of the Vogelkop bowerbird (See YouTube video with David Attenborough) not only involves species-specific feather and appendage characteristics and performances but involves herited "instinct" to engineer and construct an architectural theater complex consisting of an enclosed bower within an explicitly composed landscape. Is this evidence that non human animals can express a high degree of embodied cognition and that some birds exceed chimps in certain cognitive ability?
Although speculative, it seems plausible that in regards to what rhythmic sensory signal - its frequency, tempo and rhythm - would have the most profound significance for our human consciousness - that it would be the vibratory/acoustical signals of our mother's heartbeat we each experience all during our embryonic, fetal and final development in the nine-month gestation period.
Music Therapy For Children some children will be able to handle an instrument while others cannot, the child should be given an instrument adapted to them. All these elements help the experience and outcome of the music therapy go better and have more successes for the child. In fact according to Daniel Levitin, it started inside the womb, surrounded by amniotic fluid, the fetus hears sounds. It hears the mother’s heartbeat, at times speed up, at other times slow down, not only that but it hears other music, conversations, and environmental noises. Alexandra Lamont of Keele University in the UK discovered the fetus hears music. She found that, a year after they are born, children recognize and prefer music they were exposed to in the womb. The auditory system of the fetus is fully functional about twenty weeks after conception. See also This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession bY Daniel J. Levitin, 2006.
Music Cognition and Embodiment: Chapter 4. by Vijay Iyer. How might we connect the theoretical framework of embodied cognition with the study of music? First, we should examine the role of the body in music perception, cognition, and production, and attempt to take into account the realities of our perceptual systems. Motion is often induced in infants or toddlers via music, but this behavior is not universal, involuntary, or even reliable. This capacity to entrain to a regular aural pulse may be an evolutionary vestige of a previously useful ability that has more recently fallen into disuse. While nobody can account directly for this phenomenon, it clearly involves regular, rhythmic bodily movement as a kind of sympathetic reaction to regular rhythmic sound -- that is, as a kind of dance. Tactus: The tactus has been long understood to mean the moderate-tempo pulse present in most rhythmic music. Typically when asked to tap a finger or foot to a piece of music, listeners choose a regular time period that is in the approximate range of 300 to 800 milliseconds, averaging a little slower than 2 beats per second (Fraisse 1982). As the music gets faster, a listener is inclined to find progressively slower pulses such that they fit within this range, and vice-versa. The tactus range is also the range of "spontaneous" tempo, that is, of the tempo produced by the typical person asked to tap a steady pulse. This range coincides with a moderate walking pace, a human hearbeat, the rate of jaw movement in chewing, and the infant sucking reflex. It is also a fairly comfortable rate at which to tap a foot or a finger, since it is neither too fast for motor control, nor too slow for accurate, regular timing. Hence the tactus seems to correspond to natural timescales involved with human motion; we might imagine a chipmunk to have a faster tactus.
Further - our heartbeat provides the only internal rhythmic signal that human beings can sense naturally and integrate in embodied cognition. This results in every individual of our species having an instinctive awareness of how to express its fundamental character. The primordial expression of clapping and drumming in the tempo and monotonus rhythm of our human heart beat eventually evolved via epigenesis into modern orchestrated symphonies.
Although rhythmic locomotion, feeding and communicating is incipient in many other life forms like the cilia of paramesium, and planktonic creatures or the pulsation of jellyfish as well as movement of appendages in insects and birds - it is only in humans that it becomes integrated under full control of our conscious imagination.
This is the rich relationship we apply to our Primordial Rhythm Drum Meditation. We adopt a relaxed replication of the variation in the acoustic signal of our mother's heartbeat - its sound, tempo and rhythm in our meditation drumming/dance in an organic commune with cosmic consciousness.
The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology and Design by Lance Hosey, 2012 Studies show that fractals mimiking natural forms can improve our health and wealth. Those findings have major implications for how we design our spaces. Consider the strange attractor. In physics, an attractor is the condition toward which a system tends to evolve--a marble rolling in a round bowl, for example, eventually will come to rest at bottom center. The shape toward which a complex system evolves is a strange attractor. The movers and shakers of ecology, strange attractors shape much of nature--the dance of planets, the motion of oceans. Design can be such an attractor, a state of being toward which the world moves naturally--an accomplice to ecology. There are shapes and patterns that lure the human senses because they participate in larger forces unfolding over time, an eternal choreography not immediately detected but evident everywhere, all around us.
Trees and other vegetation have inspired the art and architecture of every culture throughout history, which suggests their universal appeal. One species in particular, the Acacia tortilis, dominates the African savannah, where its silhouette emblazoned on the human retina for thousands of millennia, and research verifies that people are drawn to its shape--broad, spreading canopies and branches close to the ground. In a study by Richard Coss and his colleagues, a diverse group of preschool children, regardless of nationality, background, or experience, consistently chose acacia-like trees as the most inviting, offering the greatest feelings of security. In a 2000 experiment conducted by Heerwagen and others for furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, people sitting at desks decorated with acacia images scored better in memory and problem-solving tests. So the acacia isn’t just visually pleasing--it actually elicits a physiological response. What’s so magical about this tree? More and more evidence suggests that the operative feature of acacia-like imagery is not its overt expression of the savanna but, instead, its underlying order - the structure known as a fractal. Naturally occurring fractals however (unlike the mathematicaly composed Mandelbrot fractals) are self-similar, not self-identical, so they look looser, softer, less rigid and mechanical, and this fact could be exactly what makes them seem natural to the eye (and more structurally resilient in trees).
Epigenesis of Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds Courtship;
Human and Non-Human Animal Rhythm Cognition and Motor Skill.
Transpersonal Embodied Experience in Nature
Quotes by Paul Shepard: I wanted to attempt to try and communicate
the transpersonal embodied experience in nature
and its endurance within the epigenetic process. We are whatever our DNA-in response to our environment- makes us. DNA does not operate in a
vacuum: the genetical heritage is constantly interfacing with our experience and environment. The old question of nature or nurture was
always pointless, as the constraints are biological and the opportunities are circumstantial.
Music is fundamental to our wholeness, our sense of primordial multiplicity. But observe what is happening in our time. The exaggerated solemnity of music in temples, churches, and mosques is a measure of the loss of joy and and organic sound basic to hundreds of indigenous religions marked by "mythic" imagination, the use of skin-and-wood drum and group improvisation. Making music is often completely absent in the lives of our children. At last the new genetics and molecular biology reconfirm our bonds to the past. We are whatever our DNA-in response to our environment- makes us. The impact of being 98% identical in DNA to the chimpanzee and 80% identical even to horses falls on us with staggering impact. Even the lizard is represented in our presence, although we are only its cousin.
Nature and Madness The fetus is suspended in water, tuned to the mother's chemistry and the biological rhythms that are keyed to the day and seasonal cycles. The risk in epigenesis is that the nurturers and caretakers do not move forward in their role in keeping with the child's emerging stages. If such deprivations are severe enough, the normal fears and fantasies can become enduring elements of the personality.
The Brain: The Switches That Can Turn Mental Illness On and Off (Discover Magazine June, 2010) The difference between one personality and another is not determined by genes alone. Love’s got something to do with it too. By Carl Zimmer. Chemicals can interfere with epigenetic marks in embryos. Researcher Feng C. Zhou found that when pregnant lab rats consumed a lot of alcohol, the epigenetic marks on their embryos changed dramatically. Even after birth the epigenetic marks in the brain can change. Neurobiologist Michael Meaney, has produced a detailed studies of how experience can reprogram the brain’s genes.They are discovering the molecular basis for the differences between rats that got licked a lot and those that got licked only a little do not emerge from differences in their genes. Meaney experimented where rat pups - whose mothers didn’t lick much and placed them with foster mothers who licked a lot, and vice versa. The pups’ experience with their foster mothers—not the genes they inherited from their biological mothers—determined their personality as adults.
Nature and Nurture in Perception by David J. Lewkowicz, Florida Atlantic University. [Sage Encyclopedia of Perception, Sage Publications, Inc.] The philosophical arguments regarding the origins of knowledge are inexorably tied up with questions regarding the nature of individual development and the roots of organic form. Aristotle understood this link and, as a result, studied the development of chicks. He noted that development is initiated by some vital force acting on unformed organic matter. As development progresses, this organic matter becomes gradually differentiated into a complex organism. The process of developmental transformation became known as epigenesis. A contrasting view that was prevalent at that time, and one that was held for many centuries after Aristotle, was preformationism. Predeterminism - the notion that organisms pass through qualitatively different stages of organization - replaced preformationism. This was a more nuanced conceptualization of development in that it acknowledged the epigenetic principle of transformation but, nonetheless, retained the notion that all knowledge is innate and present at birth. Studies of the development of song in various species of birds has provided incontrovertible proof of the power of perceptual experience. 6-month-old American infants can perceive Western as well as non-Western musical rhythms whereas 12-month-old infants no longer respond to non-Western rhythms. Moreover, the decline in sensitivity to non-Western musical rhythms can be prevented in infants through additional exposure to non-Western rhythms. Interestingly, the decline cannot be prevented in adults with additional exposure to non-Western rhythms indicating that perceptual plasticity is confined to early life.
Music, Language, and the Brain by San Diego Aniruddh D. Patel, Senior Fellow The Neurosciences Institute 2007. Any evidence that our human brain is wired for beat perception from early in life would be suggestive of circuits shaped by natural selection for music.
Young infants do not synchronize their movements to a musical beat (Longhi, 2003). In Western cultures, the ability to synchronize with a beat does not appear to emerge till around age 4 (Drake, Jones " Aerola et al., 2006) This is striking given that there seems to be ample opportunity to learn synchronization skills early in life: Most children's songs have a clearly marked beat that is emphsized in infant-directed singing (Trainor et al,1997), nursery tunes have strong distributional cues to metrical structure (i.e., more frequent events on strong beats; Palmer " Pfordresher,2003; cf. Palmer " Krumhansl, 1996), and infants are frequently rocked or bounced to music (Papousek, 1996). Yet despite these facts, and despite the fact that movement to a beat requires only relatively gross motor skills (c.g., clapping, bobbing up and down, or swaying side to side), synchronized movement to music appears to emerge relatively slowly in development. However it is possible that beat perception skills precede motor synchronization abilities, just as children's understanding of speech is typically in advance of their own speech production skills. We currently lack data on the youngest age at which children are capable of reliably synchronizing their movement to a musical beat.
It is an intriguing fact that [sic] there are no reports of nonhuman animals spontaneously moving to the beat of music. This naturally leads to the question of whether synchronization to a beat involves cognitive and neural mechanisms that have been shaped by natural selection for musical abilities. One way to test this idea is to ask whether nonmuman animals (henceforth animals) are capable of learning to move in synchrony with a musical beat. If so, this would show that natural selection for music is not necessary to account for this ability, because animal nervous systems have not been shaped by selection for music. (cf.section 7.1 and McDermott " Hauser, 2005).
Recently, it has been shown that at least one species of animal (the Asian elephant, Elephas maximus) can learn to drum a steady beat on a musical instrument in the absence of timing cues from a human. (Patel " Iverson, 2006). Indeed, using a mallot held in its trunk, an elephant can strike a drum with a rhythmic regularity that exceeds even humans drumming at the same tempo YouTube Video Example. However, the elephants studied (members of the Thai Elephant Orchestra) showed no evidence of synchonizing their drumming to a common beat when performing in an ensemble setting.
A California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) Can Keep the Beat: Motor Entrainment to Rhythmic Auditory Stimuli in a Non Vocal Mimic by Peter Cook, Andrew Rouse, Margaret Wilson, and Colleen Reichmuth, University of California Santa Cruz [Journal of Psychology] Prior to the current study, only vocal mimics, including humans, cockatoos, and budgerigars, have been shown to be capable of motoric entrainment. Here we demonstrate that a less vocally flexible animal, a California sea lion named Ronan, See video can learn to entrain head bobbing to an auditory rhythm. There was a directional relationship between Ronan’s bobbing angles and respective stimulus tempos. Specifically, despite producing reliable phase angles within each stimulus presentation, Ronan was generally farther behind the beat for faster stimuli and farther ahead of the beat for slower stimuli. Hasegawa et al. (2011) did report that their budgerigars entrained with a phase angle farther ahead of the beat at slower tempos than at faster.
Endogenous Rhythm -
Biological rhythm that is independent of environmental change and is maintained in the absence of external environmental cues, driven
by internal biological clocks.
Exogenous Rhythm - Biological rhythm that is dependent of environmental change, driven by environmental cues.
Circadian Rhythm - 24 hours
Entrained Rhythm - Rhythms that are synchronized by environmental cues.
Epigenesis - Environmental influences and changes on genes.
Ontogeny - Development and changes in an individual during the course of its lifetime.
Divergent Evolution - Lineages becoming less similar due to natural selection in different directions during evolutionary diversification.
Development of Infants Discrimination of Tempo in Unimodal and Bimodal Stimulation (need to register log in)
The Central Nervous Control of Insect Flight Don Wilson, 1972. Wilson's paper not only established the role of central patterning in rhythmic behaviour but also gave direct experimental support to the ethological concept of the genetically determined fixed action pattern that is released by appropriate input. Thus it can be argued that Wilson’s search for the neurophysiological basis of rhythmic locomotor behaviour led directly to the emergence of neuroethology as a discrete, if eclectic, discipline.
Avian personalities: characterization and epigenesis by Ton G G Groothuis, Claudio Carere, Animal Behaviour Group, University of Groningen, The Netherlands. [Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2005] ABSTRACT: The work presented here aims at understanding the nature, epigenesis and function of personality types (here called behavioral profiles) in birds, focusing on a wild bird species, the great tit (Parus major). Lines bidirectionally selected for exploration show a wide array of social and non-social behavioral differences, and also some differences in physiological parameters.
Birds of Paradise and Sexual Selection
Females will choose the most impressive and attractive males based on their displays. Over time, genes associated with these aesthetically
pleasing features are passed down and the attributes become more prominent within the species. This process is known as sexual selection.
Natural selection is usually about competition for resources, but sexual selection is about competition for mates.
SEXUAL SELECTION: DANCE and DANCE EVOLUTION: They hop, swing, strut, shake and buzz, and even transform their bodies into strange, geometrical abstractions. Although the types of movements vary between species, nearly all male birds of paradise use movement to woo potential mates. Recent scientific research examines these mating displays and what they can tell us about the evolutionary process. According to ornithologist Edwin Scholes III, these complex courtship performances can be broken down into a series of smaller, individual movements. These building blocks of motion are combined to form a single choreographed piece. By simply reorganizing and modifying these steps, males can create novel performances. Scholes argues that modularity can enhance and speed up the evolutionary process by allowing new behaviors to develop quickly through the reorganization of already existing parts. If females prefer those new organizations, then those displays will eventually become increasingly standard within the species. Modularity can help chart the evolution of the Paradisaeidae family. If we understand how these dances are related to each other, we can identify which bird of paradise species are more closely related. As lineages become clearer, we can gain new insights into how sexual selection of both behavioral and physical traits function and evolve within the family.
Birds of Paradise National Geographic July 2007 For New Guinea's birds of paradise, attracting a mate is a performing art. Traits that made one bird more attractive than another were passed on and enhanced over time. Known as sexual selection, this prime mover epigenesis is to birds of paradise what natural selection is to Darwin's finches.
Evolution of Animal Courtship The perpetual tendency of younger males to mimic the age-related displays of older males, and the perpetual tendency of adult males to become noticeably different from younger males, a never-ending string of generational conflicts, spurs a runaway process in which features of anatomy and behavior used in sexual displays become magnified and enlarged in evolutionary history.
Puffer Fish Nest youtube video, BBC Life Story narrated by David Attenborough. A stunning documentary of the male Japanese pufferfish - using only his fins to construct a magically sculpted arena that acts as a bower to attract a mate for courtship and spawning. The excavation dynamics selectively produces a cradle of softer sediment within the arena that better holds the eggs and facilitates periodic aeration by the male as he guards them through their week-long incubation. Video reveals ritual of love-bites the male administers to the cheek of the female at the moment he fertilizes eggs she deposits in a sequence of visits to the center of their love nest. Attenborough calls the fineness of the final mesmerizing sandy creation by the pufferfish possibly the greatest work of art by an organism beside humans. It shares one of the inexplicable mysteries about the Nazca geoglyphs in the Atacama desert of Peru as to how a figurative artifact on such a relatively grand scale, could be so precisely constructed without reference to a precisely vertical aerial overview. See also: Puffer Fish Video BBC/Discovery Channel (excerpt) from Earth - Life Story Ep05 - Courtship - Puffer Fish (From Netflix) (Reveals error in my Photoshop image)
Role of Huge Geometric Circular Structures in the Reproduction of a Marine Pufferfish by Hiroshi Kawase, Yoji Okata & Kimiaki Ito, 2013 - We report that male pufferfishes (Torquigener sp., Tetraodontidae) constructed large geometric circular structures on the seabed that played an important role in female mate choice. Males dug valleys at various angles in a radial direction, constructing nests surrounded by radially aligned peaks and valleys. Furthermore, they created irregular patterns in the nest comprising fine sand particles. The circular structure not only influences female mate choice but also functions to gather fine sand particles in nests, which are important in female mate choice. Strangely enough, the males never reuse the nest, always constructing a new circular structure at the huge cost of construction. This is because the valleys may not contain sufficient fine sand particles for multiple reproductive cycles.
Probabilistic Epigenesis by Gilbert Gottlieb, 2007. Today in developmental biology, the term epigenetics has come to refer to ‘the control of gene expression by the environments and microenvironments encountered by embryos or parts of embryos . . .’ . So, in developmental biology the ubiquitousness of interaction is taken for granted and extends to the activation of genetic activity by nongenetic infuences, not just the formative infuences of cell-cell, tissue-tissue, and organ-organ interactions. It makes good sense to extend this point of view to developmental psychobiology and, with some added refinements, that is what the author has been attempting to do with the metatheoretical model called probabilistic epigenesis.
Deep Etholgy Epigenesis and the Epigenetic Cascade Epigenesis: the missing beat in biotechnology? by R, Strohman, R. 1994. The rules governing physiological regulation and cellular and higher levels of organization are located not in the genome, but in interactive epigenetic networks which themselves organize genomic response to environmental signaling.
Evolution Mae-Wan Ho, Biology Department, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, U.K. [Comparative Psychology, a Handbook, (G. Greenberg and M. M. Haraway, eds.), pp. 107-119, Garland Publishing, 1998] Lamarck, Darwin and the neo-Darwinian Synthesis; Darwin and Lamarck, The Genetic versus the Epigenetic Paradigm; The Genetic Paradigm and neo-Darwinism; The demise of the genetic paradigm and revival of the epigenetic approach; Epigenetic Theories of Evolution; Waddington's theory of genetic assimilation; Heredity and evolution in the light of the new genetics; Genetic and epigenetic paradigms in the study of behaviour; The epigenetic approach, dynamic holism and the new organicism.
Ultraviolet Signals in Birds are Special - Franziska Hausmann, et al. We show that the juxtaposition of UV-reflective and fluorescent plumage leads to a 25-fold increase in chromatic contrast to the budgerigar's visual system. Taken together, these results suggest that signals based on UV contrast are of special importance in the context of active sexual displays.
Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise by David Rothenberg, 2013. Bug Music is the first book to consider the radical notion that we humans got our idea of rhythm, synchronization, and dance from the world of insect sounds that surrounded our species over the millions of years over which we evolved. Completing the trilogy he began with Why Birds Sing and Thousand Mile Song, David Rothenberg explores a unique part of our relationship with nature and sound—the music of insects that has provided a soundtrack for humanity throughout the history of our species.
Evolution of the Club-Winged Manakin by Kimberly Bostwick, Cornell Ornithology Laboratories. Explore the fascinating world of the Club-winged Manakin and his two greatest mysteries: (1) how his wings "work," and (2) how they evolved. Follow the 13 videos featured here (they will advance automatically) and/or pause to explore links to more information. Chapter 11: How it Evolved: the Red-capped Manakin
The Extended Mind by Richard Menary PhD - Philosophy, King's College London. Current research: Philosophy of Mind, Consciousness, Cognitive Science: 4E cognition (embodied, embedded, extended, enacted) Richard has been developing a model of cognition called Cognitive Integration. Integrated cognitive systems can be understood in the following way: cognition is the coordination of bodily processes of the organism with salient features of the environment, often created or maintained by the organism. A coordinated process allows the organism to perform cognitive tasks that it otherwise would be unable to; or allows it to perform tasks in a way that is distinctively different from and is an improvement upon the way that the organism performs those tasks via neural processes alone. Integrationists think that some cognitive processes turn out to be coordinated.
Thinking With the Body Towards hierarchical scalable cognition R. Sanz, et al The Autonomouus Systems Laboratory, Universidad Polite´ Cnica de Madrid, 2008. The embodied cognition movement -if we may use this expression- tries to reconcile the apparently multiple quality (duality & unity at the same time sound kind of religious) by means of analysing the ways in which the body may affect cognition: supporting, raising, sustaining, shaping, etc. There’s nothing to reconcile. Mind and body can’t be separated because cognitive agents do think with the body. We can say that the mind-body problem is not a problem of minds and bodies in the world - i.e. a physical problem - but just an artificial, conceptual problem in the minds of the philosophers-scientists. The relevance of epigenesis: The exact amount of epigenesis necessary for the agent will depend on many factors: i) the concrete control problem; ii)The amount of a priori instantiated knowledge that the agent has in its components; and iii) the level of change in body and environment dynamics that the agent must embrace. So, epigenesis is certainly on the side of adaptation but nevertheless raising a complex mental structure from scratch may take aeons.
Selected Bowerbirds behavior not only example epigenesisis processes but raise questions regarding the extent non human animals may manifest embodied cognition.
Ausralian Vogelkop Bowerbird PBS YouTube video with David Attenborough documenting the extraordinary architecture and landscape this species constructs as theater for its courtship display.
The Ames Room and the Bowerbird by Andrew D. Wilson and Sabrina Golonka, School of Social, Psychological & Communication Sciences, Faculty of Health & Social Sciences, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, GB, 2010. A recent study (Endler et al, 2010) has shown that bowerbirds take advantage of forced perspective The Ames Room Illusion in the construction of their bowers.
Great Bowerbirds construct bowers to demonstrate their genetic fitness to potential mates. These bowers are theaters that contain long entrance avenues, and females therefore enter from one direction. Male bowerbirds take advantage of this and create a forced perspective illusion along the avenue by 'meticulously manipulating' the size and placement of stones along the surface. Specifically, large stones are placed at the back, and smaller stones placed towards the front. The net result is a static texture gradient in which each element subtends the same visual angle, instead of the usual circumstance in which the visual angle shrinks with distance
Bowerbirds work hard to explicitly create this effect; when Endler et al (2010) moved the stones to reverse the intended gradient (placing large stones at the front) the male bird spent a couple of days reversing the reversal to restore the illusion. The gradient is also constructed with specific reference to the location of the entrance; the male birds understand to construct their gradients for a specific viewpoint. Male bowerbirds also vary in their skill at creating these effects, with consequences for their chances of mating, which suggests this behaviour has been selected for (rather than being a spandrel, or side effect of another selected behaviour).
It's quite clear what's happening: the bowerbird is placing stones, then going to look to see how it appears from the relevant viewing location, then going in and tweaking, until there's no more need to tweak. They are perceiving, and acting; actually, they are doing exactly what you or I would do faced with the same task. It also speaks to how such an ambiguous, 'equivalent configuration' is not all that likely by chance: it requires very specific intervention to occur and maintain, namely the kind of careful reverse engineering of a configuration of objects from a specific optical circumstance.
The fact that the bowerbird engineers and constructs the complex bower architecture is not necessarily evidence for a higher cognitive ability. Termites and honey bees likewise engineer and construct an architectured, air-conditioned, multi-environment, repairable structure. Termites as Models of Swarm Cognition by J. Scott Turner, 2010. Abstract: Eusociality has evolved independently at least twice among the insects: among the Hymenoptera (ants and bees), and earlier among the Isoptera (termites). Studies of swarm intelligence, and by inference, swarm cognition, have focused largely on the bees and ants, while the termites have been relatively neglected - yet, termites are among the world’s premier animal architects that betokens a sophisticated swarm intelligence capability. I review new findings about how these remarkable structures work, and how they come to be built. Swarm cognition in these termites is in the form of “extended” cognition, whereby the swarm’s cognitive abilities arise both from interaction amongst the individual agents within a swarm, and from the interaction of the swarm with the environment, mediated by the mound’s dynamic architecture. The latter provides large scale “cognitive maps” which enable termite swarms to assess the functional state of their structure and to guide repair efforts where necessary.
The Smart Swarm How to Work Efficiently, Communicate Effectively, and Make Better Decisions Using the Secrets of Flocks, Schools, and Colonies (2011) by Peter Miller, senior editor National Geographic Magazine. An examination of social insects; bird flocks; fish schools; animal herds. Adaptive mimiking: coordination; communicating; copying; can unleash powerful waves of energy or awareness that concurrently effect every individual in a population whether starlings or wildabeast, stimulating the kind of coherent behaviour we normilly associate with centralized cognition. Principles of a smart swarm: indirect collaboration; self-organization; diversity of information; indirect collaboration; adaptive mimiking. Wiki is a perfect example! The massive structure of information available here could be compared to a termite nest; one initial user leaves a seed of an idea (a mudball), which attracts other users who then build upon and modify this initial concept eventually constructing an elaborate structure of connectedc thoughts. See also: Swarm Theory ants, starlings, herring and wildabeast - swarms can teach us about coping with a complex world National Geographic, (2007) by Peter Miller. See also Operation STARFLAG (mg comment: Principles may relate to theories of human collective consciousness; telepathy; transpersonal episodes; etc.)
Artificial rheotaxis Living Crystals of Light-Activated Colloidal Surfers by Jérémie Palacci - et al, 2015. One of the most fascinating aspects of Nature is the emergence of complex and collective phenomena in a variety of systems: bacteria aggregate, birds flock, and fish spontaneously form mesmerizing schools. In recent years, there has been a significant effort to design and synthesize active colloidal particles that mimic microorganisms. This has led to the development of self-propelled particles that can harvest a source of energy from their surroundings and convert it into directed motion. These systems share many properties with their biological counterparts: they exhibit a persistent random walk analogous to the run-and-tumble motility of bacteria, spermatozoa, or algae and some synthetic realizations can even interact through chemical gradients and form “colonies,” analogous to chemical-sensing organisms. A key feature of motility is its interaction and response to its environment. The ability to sense its surroundings is crucial for living systems, and the migration up or down a gradient is called “taxis.” Phototaxis of invertebrate larvae contributes to the vertical migration of marine plankton, which is thought to represent the biggest biomass transport on Earth. Chemotaxis, the migration in a chemical gradient, is used by sea urchin spermatozoa to guide themselves toward the egg and by Escherichia coli bacteria to locate nutrient-rich environments. It is furthermore argued to be one of the key components in the formation of patterns and colonies of bacteria.