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Memory transfer documented in animals


Yes, in the much-studied worm C. elegans:

The microscopic roundworm C. elegans regularly encounters dangers in its environment such as the pathogenic bacterium P. aeruginosa, which seems like an appealing food source but can sicken worms if eaten. C. elegans isn’t equipped to shout out warnings as a human would, but new work by researchers from Princeton researcher Coleen Murphy’s laboratory shows that worms who encounter P. aeruginosa can help others avoid the danger, and identifies a crucial part of the mechanism by which this is done.

In earlier work, Murphy’s lab discovered that mother worms who are sickened by P. aeruginosa learn to avoid the bacterium, and that they can impress this avoidance behavior upon their offspring for the next four generations. Mother worms who’ve eaten P. aeruginosa absorb a bacterial small RNA called P11 through their intestines, which touches off a signal in the worm’s germ line reproductive cells that is then transmitted to a neuron that controls behavior. Afterwards, the new behavior is conveyed to future progeny via changes made to germ line cells. In their new paper, co-first authors Rebecca Moore, Rachel Kaletsky, and Chen Lesnik, and colleagues show that avoidance behavior can also be conveyed from trained worms to other, naïve adult worms.

“We found that one worm can learn to avoid this pathogenic bacterium and if we grind up that worm, or even just use the media the worms are swimming in, and give that media or the crushed-worm lysate to naive worms, those worms now ‘learn’ to avoid the pathogen as well,” explains Murphy.

This finding suggests that worms secrete some signal that, when picked up by other worms, can modify their behavior. Interestingly, the progeny of worms “educated” by receipt of this signal also avoid pathogenic P. aeruginosa for the following four generations. This suggests that the secreted signal touches off the same learning pathway in recipient worms as in those directly exposed to the pathogen. Murphy’s group sought to identify the secreted signal.

Princeton University, “Scientists discover a mechanism for memory transfer between individuals in C. elegans” at ScienceDaily (September 2, 2021) The paper is closed access.

The epigenetic ability to transfer memories intergenerationally is — when documented — much more informative than stupid Darwinian claims about “natural selection acting on random mutation” that somehow brings about this specific result with no information content.


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