roundworms know how to make decisions!

Beasts of Science is like a collection of short stories. Beautiful stories told by the living in all their freshness. But in all its complexity. Bracket to admire the treasures of the world. In this new episode, let’s discover a funny animal invisible to the naked eye: the roundworm.

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[EN VIDÉO] Algorithms and their decision making
Algorithms are increasingly replacing humans in the process of making decisions or completing tasks. They take into account a number of parameters, but the question arises about the transparency of the algorithms: can they explain their solution?

If I tell you how earthworm, you know what animal I’m talking about. This unpleasant beast, with a soft and flexible body. Not very appetizing, but whose role is essential for our soils. Because the worms dig passages there that allow them to ventilate and, for example, facilitate the circulation of water. But you understand, all this is not voluntary. Worms remain animals, so to speak… “primitives”. And it’s hard to imagine them endowed with any formintelligence. Difficult ? It did not take researchers any less time to become interested in the case of this or that worm.

in Prestionchus pacificus belongs to the so-called roundworms. Nematode, to be exact. Finally, like 4/5 of the animals that inhabit our Earth. It is even a free-living nematode. Therefore, he is not one of those who can interfere with us. And provoke in us some gastrointestinal disorders troublesome.

However, it should be noted that Prestionchus pacificus may accept behavior that seems strange to us. At least. For example, he likes to live near bugs. When they die, the nematode takes the opportunity to devour everything that begins to swarm in their remains. Because he appreciates both bacteria than fungi.

Bite to kill or drive away, you have to choose

This is exactly what the researchers were looking for. Wanna know if Prestionchus pacificus can make informed choices when it comes to food. An informed choice for this animal, which has just over 300 neurons ? Even though we sometimes have a hard time getting there with our 86 billion nerve cells? Let’s see…

There is a second main character in the story. Her name, Caenorhabditis elegans. A small worm about a millimeter. Nematode too Prestionchus pacificus perceives as prey. At least it is quite clear that the larvae Caenorhabditis elegans. Our roundworm kills and devours them easily. In one bite. On the other hand, it is more difficult for him with adults. For which his bites are usually not fatal.

So why Prestionchus pacificus persist in attacking these worms once they have reached their adult size? The researchers tell us that he only does this when he has a completely different goal in mind. From bacteria which also feeds Caenorhabditis elegans. Therefore, it attacks it more to protect its territory and keep it away from a potential food source than in the hope of enjoying it.

Prior to this, scientists assumed that Prestionchus pacificus bites only for the purpose of predation. But these observations show that this little worm is good at hiding his game, he seems to be able to weigh the costs and benefits of the action – biting, carried out to achieve various goals. To finally make the best decision for him.

So the basic principles decide ultimately, from a biological standpoint, coding will be easier than the researchers thought. It remains to be seen to what extent this codingdone in brainwhat its molecular bases are and how flexible it can be. But in the meantime, we must acknowledge that Prestionchus pacificus not so stupid!

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