Monday, December 26, 2011

Spider brains and the evolution of computation

Brains have a big return on investment ...

Tiniest of Spiders Are Loaded With Brains, Researchers Find - NYTimes

... In the smallest spiders, Dr. Eberhard and his colleagues found, the central nervous systems filled nearly 80 percent of the cephalothorax, or body cavity, including 25 percent of the legs.

“The brain tissue of the nervous tissue is metabolically expensive,” he said. “These little spiders are paying a very large price to keep these brains functioning.”

At times, that price includes a deformed body cavity bulging with brain matter, which may in turn compromise the size of the digestive system, Dr. Eberhard said....

Were spider brains this big 200 million years ago? Across all organisms, are brains bigger than they once were? Across all worlds, where does computation stop having positive evolutionary returns?

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