“Neuron-like machinery helps anemones decide when to sting” by Sofia Quaglia delves into anemones’ stinging decisions. «Anemones have special cells that shoot stinging barbs for protection or to hunt prey – decisions about when to release them and where to aim is based on the activity of calcium ion channels similar to those in human neurons». In such complex habitats and scenarios, the tiniest and subtlestadaptations can drastically change an organism’s behaviour.
For new Scientist, Prof. Agnese Seminara comments on the findings of “Molecular tuning of sea anemone stinging”, a paper published jointly with postdoc Yujia Qi and the Bellono Lab at Harvard University.
This is what she told us about their work: «Our theory of decision making clarifies how these animals should sting, in order to maximize benefits and minimize costs. In the experiments, we find that stinging follows the predicted behavior. Thus somehow these explosive cells implement optimal decisions even if anemones have no brain. This is an exciting result and opens many questions: how is optimal behavior ingrained in the molecular machinery that controls stinging in anemones, jellyfish and other cnidarians?»