Article by Ocean
Often referred to as our reptilian brain, new studies have found that it goes back further in our family tree than that.
We've all got insect brains!
No surprise really, since everyone will have to truthfully admit to being outwitted every time by mosquitoes. And there are the wonderfully communicative moments with butterflies, flies, beetles, hole borers, you name it. All insects are very clearly intelligent, many are engaging, interested, curious and friendly. Read this:
Mother of all Brains
Mother of All Brains Probed
By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Sept. 27, 2005 - All brains originated from a single common ancestral
brain that emerged at least 700 million years ago, according to a recent analysis of brain studies from the past decade.
The finding suggests this mother brain for all creatures with a central nervous system - such as insects, birds, animals and humans - evolved
only once before each species underwent its own evolutionary course.
"What we see today in humans, insects and all other multicellular animals
with a central nervous system are probably just variations of one ancient
scheme," said Rudi Loesel, who conducted the analysis.
Loesel, a scientist in the Department of Developmental Biology and Morphology of Animals at RWTH Aachen University in Germany, added, "What this ancestral brain looked like, we do not know. Its architecture might have been very simple, but the basic genetic mechanisms and the principal chemical setup was already there (before 700 million years ago)."
The researchers don't know what the creature that contained the mother of all brains looked like. Some scientists speculate that it could have been
a segmented flatworm, while others think it was a more complex creature.
Loesel explained to Discovery News that he, and others who study the evolution of the brain, can't rely o n fossil evidence because neuronal tissue is not preserved over time.
Instead, they compared the brain architecture of living species, identified
similarities and then tried to find common characteristics that would have
belonged to the mother brain.
"Taking the similarities in brain biology in such distantly related animal
groups like insects and mammals into account, the origin of the brain -
the common ancestral brain - must have already evolved before the major animal phyla diverged, which was approximately 700 million years ago," he said.
At around that time, invertebrates and vertebrates each branched off from the tree of life. Invertebrates, such as insects, lack a spinal column, which vertebrates, like humans, possess.
The emergence of the common brain likely occurred just before this branch-off, according to Loesel, because brains and associated characteristics of insects known to exist then and now share key aspects with human and other animal brains.
The findings are summarized in a paper published in the current journal Arthropod Structure & Development.
Loesel said evidence for the once-shared brain can be seen in certain neurotransmitters, which function similarly in most brains, and in genes that regulate the circadian clock that controls sleep-wake cycles. The same circadian clock genes in insects have been found in mammals.
Walter Gehring, a cell biologist at the University of Basel, Switzerland,
agreed with Loesel that insects and all other animals share common characteristics related to the brain, such as eyes.
Gehring and his colleagues studied Drosophila fruit flies and found a master control gene that regulates growth and development of eyes in most fly species. A very similar gene is present in other insects and all animals, including humans.
Gehring said, "The observation that mammals and insects, which have evolved separately for more than 500 million years, share the same master control gene for eye morphogenesis (the process of cell differentiation into various tissues and structures) indicates that the genetic control mechanisms of development are much more universal than anticipated."
So, the next time someone calls you brainy, say - "Oh, are you referring to my insect brain? Why, thank you! I know we're all very intelligent!"
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