Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagDeborah M. Gordon

Fresh raw lobster

Asked at “The Scientist”: Do Invertebrates Have Feelings?

Just as vertebrates differ greatly in intelligence and sentience, invertebrates may differ greatly too. The seafood industry is taking heed.

People did not ask this question about invertebrates like bees and snails fifty years ago: Decades ago, scientists and lawmakers had all but reached a consensus that invertebrates could not feel pain, let alone other emotions like joy or fear. Recently, however, evidence is mounting that invertebrates are more than just reflexive beings. Experiments in bees, crabs, and octopuses show that some invertebrate animals can learn from painful experiences, have positive and negative emotion-like states, and might even experience a range of other emotions beyond pain and pleasure. But not all scientists agree that invertebrates feel anything analogous to vertebrate—much less human—emotion. Natalie Mesa, “Do Invertebrates Have Emotions?” at The Scientist (May 26, 2022) Assessing the evidence is tricky. In…

live house fly

How Do Insects Use Their Very Small Brains To Think Clearly?

How do they engage in complex behaviour with only 100.000 to a million neurons?

If we had a skeleton that was outside, not inside, our body — and six legs — we might find it easier to understand how insects think. But only a bit easier. Despite complex behavior, insects are working with 100,000 to maybe a million neurons, compared to our, maybe, 86 billion — but insects make the most of what they have. Consider, for example, the dragonfly. How does it manage to deal with all the issues that a fighter pilot must address, while catching prey? One adaptation is specialized neurons: Dragonflies (order Odonata) and hoverflies (order Diptera) are among insect flyers equipped with special neurons for targeting with optic flow. “The ability of insects to successfully pursue targets in clutter…