When It Comes To Learning, Cockroaches Are Night Owls
Insects are tiny creatures with tiny brains, so clearly they cannot be capable of much intelligence, right? Some insects are more intelligent than others. Although there is a difference between conscious problem solving and adaptive behavior, many insects are capable of solving rather complicated dilemmas. Cockroaches are one of the more intelligent types of insect. The wide range of adaptive behavior exhibited by cockroaches may come as a result of their long evolutionary history. Cockroaches may be the oldest type of living insect, as they originated in nature around three hundred and twenty million years ago. Therefore, a cockroach’s diverse set of adaptive traits may give rise to an array of behaviors that appear to be the result of conscious problem solving. But intelligent cockroach behaviors actually originate from innate instinct. Despite an insect’s lack of conscious thought, cockroaches can learn new things through repetition and habit. However, cockroaches learn best during the nighttime hours. In fact, research has shown that cockroaches cannot learn anything at all through repetition during the early morning hours. The question asking why cockroaches only learn during the night has yet to be answered by interested researchers.
According to researchers at Vanderbilt University, a cockroach’s olfactory memories are sharper during the night. The researchers trained roaches to prefer the smell of peppermint over the smell of vanilla. Roaches possess a natural preference the smell of vanilla over the smell of peppermint in all circumstances. However, the roaches in the study learned to prefer the smell of peppermint more after they were conditioned to associate the smell of peppermint with the reward of sugar water. Different sets of roaches underwent this conditioning during different times of day. The study results showed that roaches not only learned more quickly during the evening and late-night hours, but morning roaches were incapable of learning anything new at all. This indicates that the mornings must be a particularly vulnerable time for cockroaches. It can safely be said that cockroaches are not morning insects.
Do you think that cockroaches learn the best during the night because they are nocturnal animals?