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Fly feeling

  1. Feb 10, 2016 #1
    Do creatures as tiny as flies feel sorrow, love, anger. Are their brains programmed to do most basic of tasks like finding food or do they exhibit some community behavior?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 10, 2016 #2


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    On the second question: One thing doesn't exclude the other: bees 'dance' to communicate the direction in which other bees can find food. Ants can defend their hill against attacking other tribes; when the hill is damaged the soldiers outside fight to the death while others inside re-close the entrances.
    I'm a physicist, but these examples from the insect world made a deep impression.

    On the first question: Whether this was instinct or 'feeling' ? How can we ever tell ?
  4. Feb 10, 2016 #3
    Define 'love', 'anger', 'sorrow', etc. When you are moving up the intelligence ladder of different animals, when does the feeling of 'love' emerge? Clearly it does not have well-defined point of start.
  5. Feb 12, 2016 #4

    jim mcnamara

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    I'm explaining this in a non-technical way....

    First off: for arthropods (insects, crabs, etc.) - They have one or more very small brains, with large ganglia (globs of nerve cells, kinda like a computer router) sprinkled around their bodies in places like legs attachment sites, or in central locations away from the brain.
    They do not exhibit neural plasticity (how we learn). Everything is hardwired in the brain(s) and in ganglia. So any responses are either the result of a pre-programmed scenario, or from hormone changes. So, "emotions" can be thought of as chemistry and or computer programs. Romantic, huh?

    BTW - most human emotions are purely chemical responses - our brain and adrenal glands are both linked and controlled by hormones. You have probably heard of the fight-or-flight response in people faced with great danger. Your brain "shuts off" and you run like crazy, or if you cannot run then you try to fight. And then there are pheromones as well. These act like external "hormones" - as a complex species-specific chemical is dispersed into the air, all of the individuals from the same species who are nearby get the message. And sometimes excrete the same pheromone to get every individual possible "motivated". Example: Africanized bee colonies in the Southern US react very violently when one of their fellow bees gets smashed, like when a bear goes after the beehive. The bees swarm and sting and pursue any moving object.

    So bugs would have emotions in the sense that an environmental cue elicits a hormonal repsonse. But I personally think that mapping human emotions onto animals with virtually no brain power is an anthropomorphic, not at all scientific approach. There are some studies in large mammal ethology that indicate responses that we would as humans map to a given set of emotions. Examples include elephants, wolves, great apes - generally highly social mammals. I am not in a position to validate the correctness of the "emotion" assertions I've seen in popularized versions of this kinds of research.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2016
  6. Feb 12, 2016 #5

    Fervent Freyja

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    They mostly are driven by mechanisms they cannot control. It would be most delightful to see an insect like the Tsetse fly totally eliminated from the earth. Flying insects, or flying things are usually the most threatening vector for diseases in the animal kingdom. What does it matter if they have emotions? The feelings for them are probably more urgent based upon survival needs (they can hone in on a group of warm-blooded animals miles away).
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