Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Who teaches the hatchlings

The frantic flapping, the sheer effort required for locomotion minutes after emerging from the confines of its egg and tunnelling its way from the nest, buried about a foot under the sand was indeed mind boggling. We were spellbound as we watched the hatchling trudge across the beach paddling along with its flippers. It was embedded with  navigational technology that ensured the perfect route towards the oceans. Within 10 to 15 minutes, it had reached the waterfront and was soon engulfed  by the departing wave. It was the beginning of another absolutely incredible journey of a vulnerable, helpless, fledgeling  battling unimaginable odds. It was a plunge of faith, that was more a challenge to the creator than its own self to ensure its survival. It was totally oblivious of the daunting journey it was embarking.     The dice  for this game of survival was cast. Every moment, every centimeter was fraught with perils and threats. Predators lurking  all around, prowling for a meal, or perhaps just a snack. The hatchling totally defenseless, with no one to guide, protect or defend was a sitting duck.  Every year, around November-December, adult female Olive Ridley turtles come to the shore of Velas to lay their eggs. These turtles visit in large groups for mass nesting called Arribadas. Olive Ridley turtles are endangered because they only lay their eggs at select beaches. The sites for laying the eggs are very specific. The females note down the beach they were born at and return when they attain adulthood, to lay their eggs at this very beach, no matter where in the world they are.
The female Olive Ridley turtles are laying eggs for centuries at Velaas and a few other beaches in the vicinity. Velaas is a quaint little town in Konkan. The eggs are located by following the trail left by the 50 odd kg mother turtle. They are located, retrieved and transferred to a safe, barricaded spot by locals and NGOs, protected  for the next 55 to 60 days till they hatch. This is known to be an endangered rare species. This whole exercise is indeed remarkable.  The mother turtle locates and reaches the specific destination, during a specific period, lays eggs after digging a pit, and covers it to protect from the predators. Thereafter when the temperature crosses a threshold level, the eggs hatch, the young ones dig their way out from about 12 to 18 inches beneath the ground and return to the warm ocean waters to begin life and perpetuate their species. Where, how and by whom  is this information embedded in different species?
The DNA carries the blueprint to develop the brain. The nervous system is responsible for specific behavioral patterns and paradigms. The  DNA is responsible for producing the 'hardware' of the brain, and the neuronal architecture that initiates, coordinates and supervises all motor activities . The neuronal  structure has some form of embedded information that ensures specific 'behavior' which doesn't have to be learned. This is known as instinct. Behaviour that is conditioned congenitally.
        Learning is an acquired phenomenon. It could be explained by the mirror neurons that are currently a subject of great interest and research.  Mirror neurons were discovered by Dr. Rizzolatti an Italian Neurophysiologist and professor at the University of Parma in Italy. He discovered unique neurons in the frontal and premotor cortex while doing research on the neural representation of motor movements in monkeys
A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observed in primate species.
Birds have been shown to have imitative resonance behaviors and neurological evidence suggests the presence of some form of mirroring system.In humans, mirror neurons have been located  in the premotor cortex, the supplementary motor area, the primary somatosensory cortex.The function of the mirror system in humans is a subject of much speculation. It is almost as if these neurons perform a dress rehearsal as the animal is observing a fellow animal perform different activities.  Mirror neurons may be important for understanding the actions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation.
 Intelligence is of two kinds. An innate, embedded intelligence that is an inbuilt program. This is the ROM of the neural program. The second is an acquired adaptive intelligence that is developed in the course of interfacing and interacting with a rapidly changing and at times a hostile environment. This is the RAM of the neural program.Both these types of intelligence are mandatory for effective Survival Skills.
             As i watched the baby turtle disappear in the oncoming waves of the ocean, my mind was filled with an awe and total surrender to that supreme intelligence, that designed and embedded all life with different forms of intelligence, necessary for its survival, sustenance and propagation. The drama that we witnessed forced my intelligence to acknowledge a higher form of intelligence. An intelligence that can manifest in a plethora of different forms, each embedded with its own unique, discrete intelligence. An intelligence that is sublime. An intelligence that makes reality appear virtual, or then gives the virtual a touch of reality.  An intelligence that generates this illusion of diversity, and also the conviction of the virtual being the reality.

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