Learning begins in the egg

Another fascinating article from BBC News. Scientists at a French university discovered that cuttlefish embryos apparently keep an eye on potential prey… from inside their own eggs.

That’s not to say that the embryos will track a particular animal throughout development, and then spear tackle it once they’re free from the egg. Dr. Dickel and his colleauges at the University of Caen Basse-Normandy placed crabs near some cuttlefish eggs, and none at all near others. The cuttlefish that hatched from the eggs exposed to crabs showed a strong preference for crabs upon emerging, while those not exposed to any particular prey type showed a preference for shrimp. This indicates that cuttlefish embryos are capable of visual learning from within the egg. I don’t know about you, but that blows my mind. I love this stuff!

The article goes on to point out that other animals are known to learn during embryonic development. Seagulls are able to learn their parents’ alarm calls before hatching, and frog embryos can learn the chemical signatures of the water surrounding them before emerging as tadpoles. Cuttlefish embryos, however, are the only ones known so far to learn visually while still in the egg.

Has anyone looked into this for mammals? When I have kids, can I save them a few years of public school while they’re still comfy in the womb?

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