## Monday, 1 December 2008

### Hummingbirds And Snakes

I'm exploring the way we percieve energy in the model of the golden spiral. How do we, as observers, fit into the equation? We now know the speed of light is not a constant, but is something which is dictated by the rate of perception. It appears that the rate of perception can be manipulated by vestibular stimulation, and/or influenced by the heart rate. Throughout the animal kingdom the heart rate varies enormously. From a tiny mouse with a heart rate which (when at rest) is 500 beats per minute (bpm), to a human adults' heart rate at 70 bpm, and then onto an elephant's heart rate which is around 28 bpm. This site illustrates this beautifully: http://www.thaifocus.com/elephant/heartbeat.htm . How does the metabolic rate, and/or the heart rate effect the rate of perception? Does the size of the animal, and specifically the size of its brain, effect the rate of perception? What effects could the rate of perception have on an animals perception of electromagnetic radiation?

With the exception of insects, hummingbirds while in-flight have the highest metabolism of all animals. Their heart rate can reach as high as 1,260 beats per minute (bpm) - a rate once measured in a blue-throated hummingbird. The hummingbird also does something very interesting, it can see wavelengths into the near-ultraviolet, but the flowers they use as a food source do not reflect these wavelengths (as many insect pollinated flowers do). Is it possible then that this ability to see UV light is simply the by-product of an increase in the rate of perception?

Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, and it's the next step down on our golden spiral. The hummingbird's brain is the size of a pea, but that don't make 'em stupid. They are performing aeronautical feats that Richard Branson would be proud of. Their wings beat 70 times a second while hovering and upto 200 times a second during courtship dives. Whilst hovering they remain perfectly stationary and must have an excellent optomotor response. If you were going to try and flap your arms 100 times a second (go on, please try it), your brain will have to be able to think much faster - and this all before your feet have even left the ground. Perhaps if we wanted to think faster, we should consider shrinking our own brain to the size of a pea.

Many species of fish, reptiles, birds, and insects are also able to see into the higher wavelengths of UV light. Snakes have color vision but it's not as broad ranged as ours. Their eyes have a yellow filter that, filling the lens, absorbs ultraviolet light and protects the eye. Now to me that suggests that the snake is capable of detecting UV rays, but its nocturnal habits dictate that it's no longer viable, and possibly a hindrance. Pit vipers and boids are two types of snake that also possess a heat-sensitive membrane that can detect infrared wavelengths. This ability to see into infrared has been harnessed, not by the eyes themselves, but by the adaption of a pit organ which converts the longer wavelengths into a crude thermal image.

Snakes have a low metabolic rate, and like all reptiles, they are cold blooded. This means their heart rate is comparitively low when compared to a mammal around the same body-size. With a Western Hognose snake the average heart rate is 50 - 80 bpm, and that's an easy comparison to make to the human average heart rate, which is around the same region.

So where does that leave us then? I feel like I've scattered the cards on the table and I'm looking for a good hand to pick up. Following Kleiber's power law, mammals at the lower end of the scale, for example mice, typically have a faster heart rate and also small brains. Unique among mammals however, many rodents - such as rats, mice and gerbils - have retained the ability to see UV light. So it would appear that throughout the animal kingdom, a very small brain suggests the ability to see UV light. A smaller, compact brain, would mean a faster rate of perception. Does this mean that because the rate of perception is so fast, the brain is able to percieve and process energies of higher frequencies? Does the spin of the golden spiral slow down under a faster rate of perception, and so much so, that higher frequencies of energy become visible?

I'm starting to feel that everything is tying nicely together - except for the heart rates which belong to our cold-blooded ancestors. With mammals a higher heart rate infers a faster rate of perception .This however cannot be applied to reptiles because they follow a pattern of low metabolic rates and faster rates of perception. The faster rate of perception would appear to be due to the reptiles' small brain, and not because of metabolic rate. Is it going to be possible for us to harness this ability to increase the rate of perception, and maintain it at a lower metabolic rate? Some snakes are capable of seeing into the infrared - how relevant is this to its rate of perception? What piece of the puzzle am I missing?

I would like to thank the following for all their insights:
http://www.orgs.muohio.edu/uvlakes/UVecology/Intro/intro.html
http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/okhummin/index.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrared_sensing_in_snakes
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/07/0708_030708_ultravioletmammals.html
http://bss.sfsu.edu/holzman/courses/Spring99Projects/snake.htm