10 Surprising Facts That Challenge Common Assumptions About Memory

Memory appears to be a simple concept, involving the creation and retrieval of memories or information. However, it remains a mysterious phenomenon that is not fully understood. In the natural world, there are peculiar forms of memory found in chemical compounds and even rocks. Some ants have memories that outlast their own lives, and certain plants remember being dropped. These intriguing facts suggest that memory is even more remarkable than we had previously believed.

10 Plants Remember When They Fall

In an effort to demonstrate the intelligence of plants, evolutionary ecologist Monica Gagliano conducted an experiment to test their ability to learn and remember. She chose the species Mimosa pudica, which responds to touch by rapidly closing its leaves. Gagliano designed a custom shelf that would drop suddenly, causing the plants to curl their leaves in a defensive manner. However, after several drops, the plants seemed to realize there was no danger and stopped closing up. Even after a month without the drops, the plants still remembered and did not close up when the shelf dropped again.

9 The Tortoise Ball Test

For a long time, biologists believed that giant tortoises had very limited intelligence. However, experiments conducted at two zoos challenged this notion. After training the tortoises to bite a ball on a stick for a reward, they were shown two balls of different colors. In one zoo, the tortoises were tested individually, and they successfully bit the correct color ball. In the other zoo, the tortoises were tested in groups, and amazingly, they learned by observing their fellow tortoises and also bit the correct color ball. Some tortoises even remembered the task nine years later.

8 This Compound Has Short-Term Memory Loss

In 2018, scientists discovered an interesting property of a substance called vanadium dioxide (VO2). When heated, VO2 turns into a conductor, and when cooled, it becomes an insulator. What surprised researchers was that when they heated VO2 a second time, the atoms behaved as if they remembered the previous experience. However, this memory only lasted for three hours.

7 Memory Turns Stem Cells into Hijackers

Stem cells in our skin have the ability to remember past experiences. This “inflammation memory” helps them respond faster to wounds, speeding up the healing process. However, when this memory goes haywire, it may contribute to inflammatory skin disorders like psoriasis.

6 Moths Remember Electric Shocks

Researchers tested whether moths could retain memories from their caterpillar stage, even though their bodies undergo a drastic metamorphosis. They exposed caterpillars to electric shocks accompanied by the smell of nail polish remover, and the caterpillars quickly learned to avoid the odor. Remarkably, even after they transformed into moths, they retained the memory and continued to exhibit skittishness around the nail polish remover smell.

5 Some Rocks Have Missing Memories

Rocks have the ability to align their magnetic bits with the Earth’s magnetic field, providing insight into its historical strength. However, rocks from the Devonian period (420 to 360 million years ago) do not exhibit this magnetic memory. The reason behind this remains a mystery, but one theory suggests that Earth’s magnetic field was so weak during that time that it had no effect on magnetic particles in rocks.

4 Ant Colonies Memorize Threats

Ant colonies can remember threats even when individual ants no longer do. When some ant nests suffer a disturbance, the ants change their behavior. Subsequent generations of ants also adopt the new behavior, indicating that the colony as a whole retains the memory of the original disturbance.

3 Mosquitoes Remember Defensive Hosts

Mosquitoes have the ability to remember hosts that they find particularly appealing or defensive. They can recognize the smell of a defensive host and choose to avoid them, even if their blood is “sweet.”

2 Plants Log Their Thirsty Days

Plants utilize gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to aid in memory-like processes during times of drought. GABA accumulates within the plant’s tissues during the day, with more molecules present in drier weather. This accumulation acts as a memory, allowing the plant to regulate its water loss and protect its internal moisture reserve.

1 Smart Slime Is Real

Slime molds, despite lacking brains or a nervous system, exhibit sophisticated behavior. They can learn and share information with other slime molds through their fused venous systems. These molds absorb substances they encounter to gather information, allowing them to make informed decisions and pass on their knowledge to other molds.

Jana Louise Smit

Jana is a freelance writer and author who enjoys uncovering intriguing facts about science, nature, and the human mind.


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