Memory: WILD ART 2021

As part of the Wild Art 2021 April Challenge, put on by Zoe Keller, I illustrated two pieces focusing on the theme, “Memory”. While some artists focused on nocturnal animals and their unique adaptations, others focused on marine species that live in the depths! Each month, I am going to focus on two pieces – one highlighting flora, the other highlighting fauna.

When poking fun at someone’s ability to NOT remember things, we often say “They have the memory of a goldfish!”, but not all animals have a short memory! In fact, some animals such control over their memories that they are able to wipe out unneeded memories in order to make space in their brain for more valuable memories. For example, the Chickadee has gained the ability to select which memories are important and fully engrain them in their head. When a chickadee migrates, they need to remember not just how far to go, but to remember specific locations of food and ideal habitat. In the fall, chickadees need to start recalling the best migration paths, where they have stored food, and other important information. During this time, their brain expands, allowing for more neural connections to be built. Then, in the spring to early summer, when migration is done and food is more plentiful, the brain shrinks and the neural connections that were built specifically to recall food and habitat is wiped, allowing the chickadees to create new space once fall comes again. Amazing!

It’s not only birds and animals though, that have displayed an intriguing sense of memory! It’s in plants too! For example, the Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pudica), has shown recollection. Scientists have studied this plant in controlled environments. Another name for the Sensitive Plant is “Touch-Me-Not”. This is an appropriate name, since when the plant is touched or disturbed, they protect themselves by folding up their leaves. During the experiment led by Dr. Monica Gagliano, scientists splashed the plant with water. At the start, the Sensitive plant closed it’s leaves up quickly, not liking the disturbance. Over time however, the plant learned that the water did not harm the plant, so it stopped closing it’s leaves to the stimulus. This proves that plants have the ability to learn and recognize repeated patterns, analyze threat levels, and then modify their behavior based on external stimuli! Even for several weeks after the environmental conditions of the studied plant changed, it still was able to recognize the water splash and didn’t close up.

Stay tuned next month to learn more about how both plants and animals fascinate me with the “Wonder” theme!

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