Skip to main content

The Intelligent Sea Lion


The Intelligent Sea Lion
By Shoshana Harlem, Terra Linda High School


The brain of a sea lion!
Can an animal still be a good scientist without thumbs? The answer is yes, because the sea lion is in this exact situation. Although sea lions have no thumbs, they have a big brain. Their brain is about the same size as a chimpanzee brain. They are one of the few mammals besides dolphins, humans, elephants, and whales that have brains that weigh more than 1.51Lbs. Scientists are not sure why the sea lion has such a big brain, but they think that it might be because they have a large body size and those two usually correspond. Other theories have to do with the weightlessness of the marine environment, coping with cold water temperature, or perhaps it is just a random outcome of evolution.
The sea lion’s brain consists of different regions for processing information from their whiskers. A specific, corresponding, area in the brainstem is devoted to each whisker on the sea lion’s nose. The areas in their brain that are responsible for processing touch information from the whiskers and the skin are the thalamus, cortex, and brainstem. Likewise, the human brain has specific areas which correspond to the individual fingers of a person. The whiskers on the sea lion assist with sea lion behavior and sensation. There are certain areas in the sea lion’s brain which are made for processing touch sensations from their flappers and tail. Scientists don’t know a lot about the sea lions cerebral skills. The sea lion has a particular part of their brain called the Bischoff’s Nucleus, which is very well-developed. It is surprising that sea lions have this part of their brain because it is usually found in animals with prominent tails such as kangaroos, raccoons, and whales. But the sea lion’s tail is tucked and small behind its hind flippers.
A sea lion's very important whiskers!
On each side of a sea lion’s face, are 38 whiskers. The whiskers can grow to be eight inches in length and are really sensitive. The sea lion produces more nerve fibers than any other animal in the animal kingdom. Its whiskers can be helpful in many ways too. One way is that they use their whiskers is to spot a fish by looking for changes in the flow of the water. They can find fish that are swimming up to 590 feet away from them. The whiskers can also help a sea lion know the differences between shapes and sizes up to as far as a fraction of a centimeter.
Amazingly, the sea lion’s brain is capable of higher cognitive functioning. A sea lion can play a game of Concentration. Through trial and error, they can match unrelated symbol pairs. They can also recognize signals, which is really useful in the wild. In this way they can find food, and know if someone is their friend or their enemy. Sea lions also have the ability to think logically. The can know that if a=b and b=c, then a=c.
To learn more about why sea lions are such good scientists, come to the Marin Science Seminar at Terra Linda High School in room 207 on Wednesday, February 8, 2017. Claire Simeone DVM of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito will be speaking. Join us and learn!


Sources:


         











Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Birth of the Universe, through Today's Telescopes

by Sandra Ning, Terra Linda HS

A nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Though nebulae are often the focus of space appreciation in pop culture, the universe encompasses billions more phenomena. (source)
     A story is typically told from the beginning, but oftentimes the universe is an exception. As a society, time is measured in days and nights, hours, minutes, and seconds. But even more so, time is apparent to us through the peachy sunrise of dawn, the angry grumbles of an empty stomach at noon, and the fatigue that settles with the darkness of night. It's hard to imagine any of these things in relation to the universe, with its sleepless planets and nomadic asteroids, all swallowed up in an unimaginably large blanket of space. If the universe is a story, and all the galaxies, comets, and stars its characters, where does it all begin? 
     Luckily, scientists have already delved into the origins of the universe, and have resurfaced with new and exciting insights regarding these qu…

"Gnashing, Gnawing, and Grinding: The Science of Teeth" - An Interview with Tesla Monson of UC Berkeley

by Shoshana Harlem, Terra Linda High School

Dr. Tesla Monson studies mammals, especially their skulls and teeth. She is a researcher at UC Berkeley and has a BA in cultural anthropology, an MA in biological anthropology, and PhD in Integrative Biology. 

1. What made you want to study mammals?
Growing up in Washington State, I was always really interested in biological life, and particularly animals and plants. When I first learned about Paleolithic cave art in my undergraduate anthropology class, which is some of the oldest and most beautiful art, dated to more than 30,000 years ago, I became fascinated with the seemingly timeless question, "What makes us human?", "What makes me, me?, "What makes humans unique from other animals?" And "What makes non-human animals different from each other?" Because these questions are focused on trying to place humans within the context of evolution and life on this planet, and because humans are mammals, I have been …

All About Lysosomes

by Angel Zhou, Branson School

Lysosomes, discovered and named by Belgian biologist Christian de Duve, who eventually received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1974, are membrane-enclosed organelles that function as the digestive system of the cell, both degrading material taken up from outside the cell and digesting obsolete components of the cell itself. The membrane around a lysosome allows the digestive enzymes to work at the pH they require. In their simplest form, lysosomes are visualized as dense spherical vacuoles, but they can display considerable variation in size and shape as a result of differences in the materials that have been taken up for digestion. Lysosomes contain an array of enzymes capable of breaking down biological polymers, including proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and lipids.

The lysosome’s enzymes are synthesized in the rough endoplasmic reticulum. The enzymes are released from Golgi apparatus in small vesicles which ultimately fuse with acidic vesicles ca…