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Old 11-23-03, 02:25 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Snake capable of thinking?

After a few debates on here and other fourms, I can't help but think that most people believe herps are not capable of thinking outside of basic instincts because of the little or lack of reactions they get out of an animal on certain situations.. Also the reduced cerebral cortex in some specimens. Now from what Ive read and what I could find (Cant do much research now because my computer has officially turned ********) all the studies are based with physical testings. Which is good to see if a herp can solve problems and whatknot but somewhat limits the fact that snakes may be actual thinkers. ( A few test agree snakes are capable of problem solving ). I was curious, after watching a show done with humans and monkeys that done studies of Brain wave activity (EEG) to see what we think about and how we react to several areas on several subjects. Basically it was showing how us and the monkeys thought. I couldnt help but notice any reason why we dont do this on other misinformed animals (If they do, oops). It could quite possibly help with the million dollar question.. That's what I got out of the show anyways.. Any thoughts?
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Old 11-23-03, 02:53 AM   #2 (permalink)
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it would be cool if there was somehow to prove a snake could ''think'', or not think
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Old 11-23-03, 03:16 AM   #3 (permalink)
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My general feeling has always been that serpents are mostly powered by instinct. Lizards, such as monitors, however seem to have a bit more going on upstairs.
I can't really think of any instances where I can recall anything that would be considered cognitive thought in snakes.
If you put a snake in a sealed box resembling a lobster trap, it would go around and around and probably take some time for it to get out, but it would eventually simply by trial and error, but they wont sit still and first observe the enclosure for exits.
They could possibly detect air movement through the entrance, or follow scent molecule streams from outside to the point of entry,and this could assist in escape, but that would be instinctual use of built in chemistry rather than problem solving.
It's an interesting question, and snakes certainly do have different mannerisms,and respond to "conditioning" and I hesitate to say some almost seem to have eek "personalities" for lack of a better word, but intelligence, the ability to reason.....Humm I don't know about that.
I wish they'd figure out that keepers fingers aren't food,even if they smell like food, and that it's not safe to sun bathe on the road right next to a squashed carcass of a relative. But then I guess there are lots of mammals that haven't figured that out either
If snakes are doing much thinking it certainly isn't immediately obvious by human standards of measurement.
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Old 11-23-03, 03:33 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Hmm, interesting question, but I daresay I baulk at the thought of anthropomorphism. I don't think that reptiles are, in particular, intelligent. I'm sure they have some form of basic thought that does not by much transend instinct. Anyway, I wrote this in a similar post a while back and it pretty much encompasses what I think (so why retype it? )

First of all, does thinking = intelligence? Let's assume that they are synonymous, in this case, as one cannot go without the other.
If you percieve intelligence as being problem solving, adapting to new situations, memorizing, etc. Then no, reptiles are probably not very intelligent.
They know what they need to know to survive - they know how/what to hunt, what to do to escape predators, how to thermoregulate (even then, how often do you come across animals that have been burnt?), how to hide, how to procreate and so on. If you classify an animal perfectly suited to it's surroundings, then reptiles would seem very smart after all.
And yet again, if you are measuring by brain mass, then leopard reptiles are not very smart. Crocodiles, for example, have the largest relative brain mass (still pretty small - the size of a cigar I believe) in the reptile kingdom and could thus be considered as being the smartest reptile, and they can recognize patterns (lets say, a herd of animals come to the water to drink at the same time each day). But lets face it, even the 'smartest' herps don't have very big brains, even compared to their small body size.

Now, some herps are social animals, even though it's usually only for a part of the year (ie rattlers). They can communicate very well through body language or even vocally (anyone who has accidentally put a male leo in with another, or sprayed a leo in the face can vouch for this!). They can react to threats, but they probably only have a few methods of doing so (run; hide; drop tail; intimidate or fight back). I doubt a leopard gecko could go beyond these instincts.
As for reaction vs intention, I would say that reptiles <i>intend</i> to do very little. Most of what they do is based on instinct. Sure, they can be taught little tricks (I know of some leos who will come for food, or will go nuts at seeing a feather on a string!) but are they really being taught these things? In my opinion, no. They are basing reactions on instinct. I would, however, agree that they do have some power of recognition (be it sound or, say, a pattern of activity), but that most if not all that they do is governed by instinct.

In short, reptiles don't <i>need</i> to be smart. If they spend their days contemplating the rising of the sun in the east and the setting of the sun in the west, they wouldn't get very far in terms of furthering the species. That's a bit exagerated, but you get the idea Animals, IMO, function better if they are functionning almost solely on instinct. Instinct protects - why do you think it kicks in and saves many they are frightened or in danger?

However, I would certainly agree that snakes have personnalities... who wouldn't! I have raised several animals for hatchling-hood and even kept in the same conditions, they don't turn out the same. I might not call it personnality, but they certainly aren't robots.

Anyway, just IMO Looking forward to hearing others'!

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Old 11-23-03, 03:35 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Its too early for this much of a thought process But very interestedin Roy and Zoe.
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Old 11-23-03, 02:05 PM   #6 (permalink)
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well i noticed that a distinction between reptiles and humans/monkeys and what not is that reptiles are cold blooded.. so i tried to make a theory based on cold bloodedness.. and had trouble.. but since they're cold blooded i'd think that the brain would have to devote more of its small self to temperature monitoring.

other than cold bloodedness i would have to disagree about reptiles being purely instinctal, like cobras know that by making their head look bigger it'll scare things away and some of the venomous snakes divide strikes and attacks. like a copperhead might strike at you but try to hold back its venom and then flee whereas i think w/ only instinct the copperhead would try to kill you seeing that you're a threat and end up dying in battle.. dunno if i've made much sense
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Old 11-24-03, 12:56 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Great read guys..

Quote:
it would go around and around and probably take some time for it to get out, but it would eventually simply by trial and error,
Yes, but most things are learned by trial and error, and the animal in question does figure out where and how to get out. Which has to have a base of thinking.

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but they wont sit still and first observe the enclosure for exits.
Maybe. However, blindfold your self and move around a room a few times. Once you generally figure out where the opening is, you'll have more of a chance at finding it sooner. Which brings forth you have learned where to go to get out of a box. You didnt get the chance to observe the area but after a few attempts you learned on where to go. Much like the testings that are done on snakes.

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They could possibly detect air movement through the entrance, or follow scent molecule streams from outside to the point of entry,and this could assist in escape, but that would be instinctual use of built in chemistry rather than problem solving.
I wouldn't go about along that line, unless it attains to us as well. Everything we use to learn is obtained from built in systems as well. Sight, Smell, touch.
Interesting thoughts and points to figure. Thanks for the reply and please do so if anything else sparks up.
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how to thermoregulate (even then, how often do you come across animals that have been burnt?)
Well that'a a relatively easy answer..
Have you ever gone to the beach without using sun block? The sun feels good and you are comfortable. Then, a few hours later, your skin is painful to the touch, and is obviously burned. You may even develop burn blisters, and perhaps an infection. We feel pain, but sometimes the development of a burn is so slow that we fail to recognize the warning signs until it is too late. This is similar to the reaction we see in reptiles with thermal burns. We also need to be aware of the reason a reptile is often on the hot rock for extended periods of time in the first place. It is because the ambient temperature in its environment is too low. This low temperature slows down the reptile’s metabolic rate, which in turn decreases its reactions to stimuli, including pain.(N.O.A.H)


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If you percieve intelligence as being problem solving, adapting to new situations, memorizing, etc. Then no, reptiles are probably not very intelligent.
It's been said snakes can think and do solve problems such as say Holtzman's testings have proved. I havent read up to much on his tests yet but seem promising and I still await for him to reply to his email.

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And yet again, if you are measuring by brain mass, then leopard reptiles are not very smart.
I wouldn't actually go by mass persay. More over I'd go with the components the brain posse. Such as the crocodilians who attain a relatively larger cerebral cortex and so forth can and do for a fact learn. Some more than others again, because of things going on inside the other parts of the brain.

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well i noticed that a distinction between reptiles and humans/monkeys and what not is that reptiles are cold blooded
Heh, yea Endothermic and ectothermic creatures are somewhat different.

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but since they're cold blooded i'd think that the brain would have to devote more of its small self to temperature monitoring.
Maybe, but we all go through the thoughts of keeping warm and or keeping cool, and to an extent I somehow dont figure a brain has a limit of what it can learn but has the limitation is by what it has to work with. However, according to several sites there are electrical signs of non-REM sleep under the level of the cerebrum of most reptiles.
Reptiles are possibly unihemispheric sleepers. (one hemisphere of the brain falls asleep while the other stays awake and responsive) A common routine in birds.

Some reptiles, maybe, (e.g. Iguanas and other lizards) show signs of REM sleep, including flat muscle tone and wake-like EEG activity_ (Hartse, Rechtschaffen, Peyrethon et al 1968, Huntley 1987, Ayala-Guerrero 1991; in Siegel et al, 1998).
The occupied of 67.7% and 0.6% of the 24-h period, respectively state displays its own behavioral and electrophysiological characteristics. The mean duration of As episodes was very short (12.9 +/- 9 s). Stimuli reaction threshold was highest during sleep. Could this mean reptiles do think while they are asleep? For the commonly said instinctual animals, why would one need to think while asleep? Questions, questions, questions... Heh, Im confused. More thoughts.
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Last edited by KrokadilyanGuy3; 11-24-03 at 12:59 AM..
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Old 11-24-03, 01:06 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Interesting stuff...

Quote:
Have you ever gone to the beach without using sun block? The sun feels good and you are comfortable.
Indeed, but how often have you kept your hand on a hot element long enough to get burnt? Snake burns aren't slow burns that develop after a day, they happen right away, yet the snakes stay put.

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Old 11-24-03, 01:09 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
For the commonly said instinctual animals, why would one need to think while asleep?
i think i heard somewhere that if a person has dreamless sleep it will eventually lead to insanity and he had a good reason to back it up but i forgot what it was.

but yea i agree that some reptiles still think during sleep. my leos for example will sleep with one eye open and if i pass my finger past that one eye to the closed one the closed one will open which shows processed information and reaction. but then again that might not be thinking it could be pure instinctal. also while they're asleep they're more vulnerable to attack or prey might slip by.
during the day if i lift up a hide suddenly the leo sits there but if i push a cricket in front of it it goes crazy. if i dont put a cricket or tap its tail it sits for about 5 min then shakes its head and runs to the next hide. uh oh i think i'm starting to contradict myself.. i'll stop while i'm ahead..

oh and thx for startin this thread. i love psychology (holy crap i'm venomous now too! double score!.. sry, resume talkin bout brains)

Last edited by Neo; 11-24-03 at 01:12 AM..
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Old 11-24-03, 02:12 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Zoe, Ive heard that there was a reason why this was but I cant remember what it was. Something about the nervous system and the reactors. Ive tried looking it up and got nothing but Heat rocks burn blah blah blah. But I do believe that there is a nerve reasoning to why herps are burnt like they are. Like say when you grab something hot by the palm of your hand your reaction is slower than if you would of touched it by the back of your hand.. I learned that on a Fire safty show.. heh. If I and when I find out, You'll be the first on my list to send it to.
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Old 11-24-03, 06:08 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I think that herps get burnt in captivity because they are designed to thermoregulate based on heat sources originating above them (i.e the sun) as opposed to heat sources from the ground. They have less heat receptors on the bottom half of their body compared to the top half, and as Xain said, reaction time is slower.
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Old 11-24-03, 10:01 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I would have to say that snakes aredriven more by instinct.
The reason is that most snakes have poor eyesight at best and they have very poor hearing at best so most of their information is collected through their tongue flicking, Through this they can recognize food and individual people but i doubt it will help them get out of a lobster trap very quickly. Also i would think that teaching an animal to do tricks would be difficult if the animal can't hear you or see you.
Some of the believed to be more inteligent snakes eg;Mombas,king cobras and rat snakes are also believed to have the best vision

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Old 11-24-03, 10:55 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Snakes have very few nerve endings in their skin. Most of the nerves are underneath their scales, in and directly above the muscle tissue. So they do not feel heat until it has penetrated fairly deeply into the body. That is one reason why they don't move.

Another suspected reason is that pain avoidance is a learned response. Human infants don't pull their heels away from the nurse who is sticking in a lancet to draw blood, but they soon learn to pull away from something painful. Since most reptiles don't have a cerebral cortex to store information, they probably can't remember that pulling away decreases the pain and so they just tough it out. Anybody who's ever worked with injured reptiles will soon notice that they literally forget they have an injury and will try to walk or constrict as they normally do in spite of broken bones, burns, or what have you. It doesn't mean they don't feel the pain, just that they don't remember that a particular motion will make it hurt more.
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Old 11-24-03, 12:04 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I could go with the idea they have a more developed decision making process than often credited with, they can respond to the same stimuli in multiple ways, many much higher animals have been looked at for decision making research. Most animals are not considered intelligent because of lack of evidence of decision making independant of stimuli. Memory as well is no indication of intellience, several species are capable of developing highly complex maps of their territories. Even some tool using species could not be considered intelligent because they don't usually apply the same tool in other situations that would be similar. How you define intelligence is a key point here.
 
Old 12-25-03, 08:22 PM   #15 (permalink)
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thought to revive this thread with a report I came across http://www.lasuerte.org/omesnakes.htm
 
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