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Butterflies remember their lives as catepillars

MJ Solaro

Joined: Feb 21, 2008
Posts: 131
Location: Bellevue, WA
Thought this was an interesting tidbit:

Scientists have proven that despite the dramatic metamorphosis that caterpillars go through, they retain memories from their caterpillar lives.

Yup. Even though as butterflies and moths, their body transforms, the brain and nervous system are basically liquefied and rebuilt, their sensory capacity alters, and their lifestyle and diet changes utterly, they still remember their previous lives.

In the experiment, scientists taught a group of caterpillars to associate a particular smell with a mild shock. The caterpillars learned in time to avoid that smell.

Just goes to show: never underestimate your critters.

Brave New Leaf - Everyman Environmentalism

Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I always wonder who in their right mind would torment a creature undergoing intense metamorphosis under the assumption that they were not cognizant enough to comprehend pain during the very act of transformation.

Makes one wonder just how cognizant we really are and what the butterfly learned about us? Nothing good, I'm guessing.

And what will they remember about us? That shock it took them a long time to learn to avoid. 

The more we learn using questionable methods the more ignorant our questions become.


Joined: Jul 10, 2008
Posts: 7
Interesting, the critter remembers pain, it does not say anything about it being self aware. While the process of metamorphosis is awesome I can't get to carried away with something like this because I'll bet most all creatures that start out as grubs that change into something else remembers most everything from it's pupa stage because the brain is the same. What is the big deal about maintaining an infant learning process in the same brain? I would hope the critter's early development would stay intact so it would not need to learn everything all over again. Personally I believe evolution would allow for these kind of processes.
Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
Interesting none the less. I remember reading  of the following experiment demonstrating "cell memory".  I found this excerpt describing it.    * note the results have  not reproduced in a blind study. Cue the eerie music!!! what do our cells remember creeeeeepy.

Biochemical memory experiments

In 1955, Thompson and James V. McConnell conditioned planarian flatworms by pairing a bright light with an electric shock. After repeating this several times they took away the electric shock, and only exposed them to the bright light. The flatworms would react to the bright light as if they had been shocked. Thompson and McConnell found that if they cut the worm in two, and allowed both worms to regenerate each half would develop the light-shock reaction. In 1962, McConnell repeated the experiment, but instead of cutting the trained flatworms in two he ground them into small pieces and fed them to other flatworms. Incredibly these flatworms learned to associate the bright light with a shock much faster than flatworms who had not been fed trained worms.

This experiment intended to show that memory could perhaps be transferred chemically. The experiment was repeated with mice, fish, and rats, but it always failed to produce the same results, . The perceived explanation was that rather than memory being transferred to the other animals, it was the hormones in the ingested ground animals that changed its behaviour.[6] McConnell believed that this was evidence of a chemical basis for memory, which he identified as memory RNA. McConnell's results are now attributed to observer bias.[7] No double-blind experiment has ever reproduced his results.


"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
This thread needs to be alongside the butterfly garden one.  All those poor "worms".
subject: Butterflies remember their lives as catepillars