William Tivol tivol at news.wadsworth.org
Fri Mar 8 13:04:30 EST 1996

Mendocino Middle School Lab (search at mcn.org) wrote:
:    My name is Wesley Thurston I live in Mendocino and am in 6th grade and
: go to middle school in northern California. I am doing a project on how
: smart worms are. My main question is how smart are worms.      

	Hi Wesley; how are things at one of my favorite spots?

: #1 I am interested in what would happen if I fed a smart worm to a dumb
: worm. Would the dumb one get smart?

	This was done with Planaria.  One learned a simple maze, was ground
up & fed to another; the 2nd learned the maze faster.  I don't have a ref-

: #2 I would also like to know what worm¹s IQ are? 

	IQ has little enough relevance for humans, and none at all for worms.
There are some quantitative measures of the time it takes to learn a maze,
but that is the best we can do at present to assess a worm's intelligence.

: #3 One other thing I would like to know is how fast worms learn. Are they
: brainless? 

	How fast they learn under various conditions is, of course, the crux
of the experiments you will have to do in order to find out how smart worms
are.  Your biology text should tell you whether a particular worm has a 
brain--I think that some do, and some have ganglia, which are not complex
enough to be called brains.

: *I am not interested in parasitic worms. I would like to know about earth
: worms and red worms.*
:    For my experiment I am going to have some food  on a plate and see how
: long it takes for the worm to get the food. Then the next day I will do
: the same thing and see if the worm gets to the food faster I will keep
: doing the same thing and see if the worm learns.

	I thought earthworms gathered food while making their way through
the soil; if so, they may not eat from a plate.  In that case, you will not
see evidence of learning, since the worm will not be motivated to get to
the food.  If there is sufficient food in the soil, the earthworm may not
go to the food on the plate because the discomfort of being exposed to the
air could outweigh the advantage of eating from the plate--even in the case
where the worm can eat from the plate.  If you saw a table full of food in
front of you, would you dive to the bottom of a pool to pick up a peanut
butter sandwich?  Good luck; your subject is a good one, but you might have
to rethink the design of the experiment.

:    We here at MMS are putting together a list of previously written
: letters by subject matter and that we would be happy to add your
: correspondence to the list *if* you give your approval. you need to tell
: us whether or not you wish to include your name and/or return e-mail
: address with the letters so that outer students who are interested in the
: topic in the future might get in touch with you or at least know who wrote
: the letter.

	It's OK with me to include my correspondence, name & email address.
				Bill Tivol

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