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Thread: Any ideas about how instincts pass on?

  1. #1 Any ideas about how instincts pass on? 
    Forum Freshman Headdresser's Avatar
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    Has anyone an Idea how complex instinct driven actions (like building nests or dens, or organize in states, or returning to the ocean, or fly south, or preform a complicated courtship ritual) is passed from one animal generation to another?
    Has that something to do with the DNA or learning or semiochemicals or something
    Are there "instinct-mutations" to keep the evolutionary process of behaviors going
    If yes...what could cause these changes in behavior or new behavior

    Thank you for your ideas.





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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    It's all in the genes.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Freshman Headdresser's Avatar
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    Thx for answering
    So...there is a gene that inherit the knowledge how to build a honey-comb or a cooling system for your den? Has this gene actually been found? There has been multiple experiments I heard of, about chancing animals genes...but is there an experiment that changes complex behavior...like a bird flying north or an ant building a different kind of hive or a bird doing a different dance to attract females or a dog that don't give a fuck about protecting it's master?
    If genes can store complex information shouldn't it be possible to create genes with...i dunno...the ability to build a motor or to have a basic understanding of democracy...this would be really fascinating.
    Not that I doubt that instinct information is in the genes (because I don't think simple animals are able to learn complex behavior by watching others) but I don't understand: if information is "created" in the brain by the connection of braincells...can genes trigger braincells to form this connections? I always though this connections simply form by learning? Is that not the case in the animal kingdom?
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  5. #4  
    Forum Professor Zwirko's Avatar
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    I can't give you a technical description since I don't know much about the genetics of behaviour. (If you are keenly interested, then I'd recommend watching the Stanford University lecture series by Robert Sapolsky on YouTube. There must be around 20-30 lectures in the series I think).


    Simple behaviours, like instincts, have to be inherited genetically. If you think about it, where else could they come from? I admit however that it's very hard to grasp how this works without having a good understanding of such a complex subject as behavioural genetics.


    Innate behaviours are often inherited in a simple form (sorry, I don't know the right jargon for this; "action pattern" rings a bell, but don't quote me on this). Learning and parental teaching refine these innate behaviours, directing them as it were. Without parental input innate behaviours can go awry, leading to inappropriate and misdirected behaviours. For example, a rodent that digs for buried food may carry out it's digging instinct in all the wrong places or at the wrong times if its mother does not teach it where and when to dig. The instinct to dig is there, but it needs to be shaped by experience and learning (note that this is an entirely made up example for illustrative purposes only).
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  6. #5  
    Forum Professor Zwirko's Avatar
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    For the record, the terminology I was looking for in the previous post was "fixed action pattern". Wiki page: Fixed action pattern - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    if information is "created" in the brain by the connection of braincells...can genes trigger braincells to form this connections?
    Genes make the brain cells, you are predetermined as to how many you will have by your genetic makes up as will all living things. The brain cells trigger actions/reactions to the environment or what's happening. Exactly how this is genetically transferred isn't known at this time or which brain cells do the transferring.
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    The mechanism for behaviour can be simple: say an ant finds food and brings it home returns and repeats ...soon lots of other ants start going to the same place ... did the first ant tell them to come or did they smell a strong track of ants and are programmed to investigate such a thing? (dunno if this example is real...who cares... its the principle I try to show)
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  9. #8  
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    The ants tell the other ants using a particular pheromone or scent. They follow the scented trail to where the scout said to go.
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    Forum Freshman Headdresser's Avatar
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    I think I understand that...because following a track and searching for food is kind of simple behavior...if some kind of ants breed mushrooms, which requirers a lot of knowledge I guess...or termites that build air conditions...I don't understand how this is triggered by pheromones.
    Are insects able to teach others or learn by observing?
    Or the creative stuff birds do to impress their potential mates. I never had a bird...but is a bird...who never ever saw another bird of it's kind able to do the same "dance" than the birds in nature?
    And if "dances" can be stored...couldn't a scientist make a raven act like a chicken...or "genetically" enable someone to dance Tango or do Judo?
    My point is...IF the DNA is able to store complex information...our DNA should be able as well, even if not many (compared to other kinds) informations/instincts are stored in it right know.
    So...my question is...the human genome is said to be decoded...has such parts that are able to store (infos like building, movement patterns, ) "information" been found...and is it (or is expected to be in close future) possible to store new info?
    Man...how great would it be to be born with basic knowledge...
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  11. #10  
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    Clearly DNA must store lots of complex information, or else how would your brain know how to make use of your body? Input from the eyes has to be translated into a 3D spatial awareness. Trying to write a program for a computer to do that is staggeringly difficult, yet most humans know how to do that without anyone teaching us.

    Mapping our sensations to our body is also quite a complicated task, like when the nerves in the end of your index finger start screaming, knowing that means your index finger is under attack and not your big toe. Or wanting to eat certain things, but not eat others.

    The software required for a computer to know how to read data off of its own hard drive is pretty complicated. Just imagine if that computer needed to know how to keep a human body running.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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