Learning The Hard Way

Elephants are credited with having an extremely good long-term memory capability. A good memory is a survival asset and our locations, with refuges and food sources, are critical learning requirements for a large number of species. How quickly we learn, though, is another problem.
                                                                     Great Pond Snail                                                        

Apparently when it comes to memory and wrote learning, the great pond snail is a good test subject. Perhaps not up to the standard to make it a regular circus performer, but good enough to keep the attention of an academic audience.

The latest challenge to these mollusks was thrown down by Dalesman et al (1). They rooted around in a couple of small drainage ditches and a couple of large canals to acquire four populations of these performers. They were dumped into pond water and given half an hour to memorize the details of their new surroundings. 24 hours later, they “sat” their examinations.

Bad news was to follow. Only a dismal 25% pass rate was achieved. The populations were given a year to get their acts together and then went through the same procedure. Alas, with the same result.

Now it was time for a serious intervention. Tench and crayfish like great pond snails, for lunch that is. When our mollusk students got a whiff of either, their long-term memory improved to a remarkable level.

Clearly, in the carrot and stick approach used here, the carrot was not a very worthwhile carrot. On the other hand the stick was certainly big enough. Will we see an equivalent introduced for human students in the Universities of Calgary and Plymouth who collaborated on this study?
  1. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.05.005

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