March 18, 2010
From: Charles Stenholm
A lecturer for The Learning Company quoted an (unnamed) book of Daniel Dennett's in which he supposedly cited research by the Emperor Hirohito on a species of 'sea slug' which sought out a rock on which to attach itself and thereupon 'ate its own brain' which was only useful to help it find an appropriate rock. I have never heard of a sessile sea slug much less a autobrainophagous one.
firstname.lastname@example.orgStenholm, C., 2010 (Mar 18) Sea slug eats own brain??. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/23361
I have never heard of anything like this. The Emperor was deeply interested in marine biology and sponsored much scientific research, including Baba's publications on the Opisthobranchia of Sagami Bay, so the suggestion that the Emperor was doing marine research is correct. However I know nothing about brain-eating slug research. The other possibility is that 'slug' was used by Daniel Dennett in a broad sense to describe a 'squishy invertebrate'. Philosophers and non-scientists don't always realise that precision in the use of names can avoid a lot of misinformation. There are invertebrate and chordate larvae [ascidians for example] which have a head etc as as a free-swimming larvae but lose it when they metamorphose into an adult. Again it is not very precise to say they 'eat' their brain - what they do is reabsorb the tissue and re-organise it much like a caterpillar does when it metamophoses into a butterfly.
I'm not saying this is what Dennett or the Learning Company lecturer was in fact talking about, but while on the surface the quote you are querying may sound very stange, it may have a sensible explanation.
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