New Paper (2024): Eating and Cognition in Two Animals without Neurons: Sponges and Trichoplax

Published open-access in Biological Theory as part of the upcoming special issue on Ladislav Kováč and the Origins of Cognitive Biology.

Abstract: Eating is a fundamental behavior in which all organisms must engage in order to procure the material and energy from their environment that they need to maintain themselves. Since controlling eating requires procuring, processing, and assessing information, it constitutes a cognitive activity that provides a productive domain for pursuing cognitive biology as proposed by Ladislav Kováč. In agreement with Kováč, we argue that cognition is fundamentally grounded in chemical signaling and processing. To support this thesis, we adopt Cisek’s strategy of phylogenetic refinement, focusing on two animal phyla, Porifera and Placozoa, organisms that do not have neurons, muscles, or an alimentary canal, but nonetheless need to coordinate the activity of cells of multiple types in order to eat. We review what research has revealed so far about how these animals gather and process information to control their eating behavior.