Following animal trails can be an excellent way to learn about wildlife.    Today’s stories may further expand your thinking about the value of these trails. 

Did you know that sponges are aquatic animals, not plants?  They are defined as primitive because they have few specialized cells andSponges they don’t have any organs.  Their porous bodies are made from collagen.  Water and nutrients circulate through them, so until now, people assumed that they do not move.  That assumption is wrong. 

A team from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research discovered sponge trails on the seafloor in a deep section of an Arctic sea.   The sponges are actively moving, albeit extremely slowly.  These trails are not the result of currents pushing the sponges around because there aren’t any at the depth of this finding.

Using a towed underwater camera dropped from an icebreaker, the team captured images.  These were then used to create 3D models of the sea bottom.  Surprisingly, 69% of the images had trails, many of which led to living sponges.  

The discovery prompts many additional questions.  Why do they move?  How do they move?  These are among the most basic details yet critical to determine what is going on.  Hopefully, more will be known soon.

The paper was published in Current Biology on April 21, 2021.  Go here for the summary or to access the full paper:  https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(21)00353-5?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0960982221003535%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

If there are multiple paths to get from point A to point B, how do you choose which one you will take?  Time constraints, your intentions once you arrive at point B, and even your energy level can influence your decisions.  Your cognitive abilities allow you to parse through the various options.  

Now, a study of the path choices of 164 wild primate groups in 36 countries is providing new insight into the primates’ evolutionary cognitive development.  Decision-making processes in the wild are likely to be different than those conducted in a designed experimental scenario.  New insights surely will emerge.

The foci of the studies included travel path decisions for food acquisition, avoidance of predators, and locating shelter, as examples.   Cognitive functions tested include spatial reasoning, short-term memory, and learning. While the report did not provide results or conclusions based on the data, the research design and data were interesting on their own.

One of the major benefits of this data collection is the willingness of the team to share the data with other researchers who are interested to use it for additional studies.  Though not specifically stated, I wonder if the data may also be useful information to help support and establish more connected corridors for wildlife so that they may be able to travel more safely and further ensure their survival.

You can read the full study here at :  https://www.cell.com/iscience/fulltext/S2589-0042(21)00311-4?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS2589004221003114%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

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