by Virginia Morell on 20 September 2012, 5:17 PM
Excerpt: “Perhaps most surprising to the scientists was how quickly the bumblebees learned from their trial and error method. Before this study, such sophisticated learning was “thought to be something only larger-brained animals were capable of,” says Lars Chittka, a behavioral ecologist at Queen Mary, University London and another member of the team.”
My comment: If, as suggested in Chittka et al (2012), “…cognitive traits arise by convergence or parallel evolution…” it seems likely that the epigenetic effects of nutrient chemicals and pheromones directed convergent adaptive evolution via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction. If so: 1) An environmental drive evolved from that of food ingestion in unicellular organisms to that of socialization in insects. 2) Olfaction and odor receptors provide a clear evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans. The concept that is extended is the epigenetic tweaking of immense gene networks in superorganisms that solve problems through the exchange and the selective cancellation and modification of signals.
In the context of the ENCODE project data and the complexity of the human genome, perhaps the molecular mechanisms involved should be examined at the most basic level of convergent adaptive evolution, where nutrient chemicals are required for individual survival and the nutrient chemicals metabolize to pheromones that control nutrient-dependent reproduction and survival of the species, which also leads to nutrient-dependent and pheromone-dependent speciation in species from microbes to man. By the time we arrive at the complexity of the human genome we have millions of evolved switches because they adaptively evolved in the presence or absence of every nutrient chemical ever ingested by any organism, and every species-specific mixture of pheromones that led to the control of their reproduction.
With that demonstrable reciprocity in bottom up organization of genetically predisposed behavioral responses that are epigenetically activated by sensory input, it seems unlikely that random mutations cause the convergent adaptive evolution that led to construction of our socio-cognitive niche. This question comes to mind: Is there a model for that, and — if not — whose cognitive niche was used to promote random mutations theory? Perhaps people need to be told about the required molecular biology, where epigenetic effects alter intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression as is required to support the existing diversity of species and complexity of the human genome.
Unfortunately, attempt to discuss what seems to be the most likely convergent approach to the development of human cognition has not been taken seriously by the neuroscientific community. Attempts to discuss the role of nutrient chemicals and pheromones in cognitive neuroscience discussion groups have met with outright hostility. So, let’s wait another week, month, or year until the convergence becomes perfectly clear.