About the Author

Robyn Morrison

Guest contributor

Robyn grew up in Johannesburg and every family holiday was spent exploring the Lowveld or camping around Southern Africa. Her love of nature and conservation propelled her to complete her Masters degree at the University of Edinburgh’s school of Geoscience. Although this gave ...

View Robyn's profile


on Exploring the Enigma of Genetic Memory in Animals

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

A very interesting blog Robyn. Thank you. Definitely food for thought.

Natures adaptations are truly amazing as they unfold in all species that survive over time. Thank you Robyn for your insights.

That’s fascinating, Robyn. While some things could, as you say, be just basic traits, it would be difficult to argue against birds’ migratory routes without some kind of inherited genetic memory.It would be good to return to this topic again in the future.

There are some interesting facts presented in this blog, but it also raises many questions. I suppose this is why it’s an interesting field of study for scientists and research fellows alike. Following on to your example of the robins raised in captivity, who managed to follow the same migratory trail as their wild counterparts, makes me wonder about some of the animals kept in zoos. Would it be possible to take a lion out of captivity and transport it to an African wildlife location in the hopes its genetic makeup would stimulate it to hunt? Just a thought……

Thanks, Robyn, for this interesting blog.
I think that there is probably a mixture of genetic memory in animals, especially with migrating ones, and learning by watching adults hunt, e.g., as in the case of the lions. However, as you wrote, there is a lot of research or better careful observation of wild animals to be done to be sure of this.

Nature is awesome and we can only learn from nature. With the existence of memory is absolutely astounding and I am sure if a person really astounding and if one digs deeper you will learn much more interesting aspects of these amazing animals.

There is a lot of evidence of this in many animal systems and one possible explanation could be that the mitochondrial DNA in the cell cytoplasm gets influenced and then that gene expression is passed along via the mother (producing an egg). Somehow the mitochondria then can influence or control the gene expression in the nuclei of cells of offspring. Even being a geneticist by education and training this all makes my head spin too!

Master Tracker

I have always been baffled by how birds know to build a nest ?

As I lay here in my bed, on what I have learned to call a gloomy day. And, I think to myself, “Maybe the memory thing is not as complicated as it seems?” Maybe the Ntsevu lions remember the taste and like the taste of buffalo? Maybe the Birmingham males and Ntsevu lionesses realized it was easier to feed a 22 member pride by killing buffalo than having to hunt impala constantly? And, maybe they realized that buffalo were easier to find than kudu bulls?
Maybe early birds got the worms by finding thawed ground to the south or north of them, depending on the hemisphere or maybe they were simply made to go in the direction of the food sources? Maybe we are trying to humanize animals in understanding things the way we were made? We certainly do that in movies. So, how do we know to get in out of the rain and animals don’t? Maybe 4 prides of lions, a dazzle of zebra, a herd of elephants and numerous insects, mice and so on, all seeking a few caves in the midst of Londolozi or the Sabie Sands would lead to too much violence, so they just put up with the rains? Or, maybe they are simply made to be out in the rain and we place all the other feelings, emotions and thoughts on them, whether those human traits are there or not?
Our trait is to gain knowledge. Is it an automatic thing that we cannot control and is constantly processing things through memory or are we actually in control of it? I say it’s the former and it is actively shaping our future based on our memories, except that we have never figured out how to stop it and choose no war, as opposed to war. Are we humans no better than a pride of lions, in that regard? I think it would be wiser to sort out our mechanisms, rather than those of animals, because they are, now, rarely a threat to us, but we are a constant threat to them, to ourselves and each other, given our consistent and constant internal dialogue, which includes concluding that we are, basically, animals. Might it not be far better to see ourselves as beings, made in the image and likeness of God? This way, we can mean what we say and say what we mean, because we will be, as, I suggest, we always have been, making our world in our own image and likeness. And, since the 1800s, hasn’t our ‘wisdom’ had us conclude that we are animals? How is that going, this ‘law of the jungle’, ‘survival of the fittest’ living?
Our biggest trait, which animals do not seem to possess, is to make ourselves appear to be the victims of everything around us, rather than the masters, generators and inventors of our worlds, based on our viewpoints, which are mere conversations in our heads. Maybe we need to own our own magnificence and be responsible for generating our worlds out of human traits, and pick the ones we most want to see come to fruition; ones that will leave a more peaceful and loving existence for our progeny and the animals with whom we share our lives. I think I’ll go play in the rain, now. It’s not as gloomy as I automatically adapted it to be, given my collective memory.

Connect with Londolozi

Follow Us

One moment...
Be the first to this photo
You and 1 others this photo

Filed under
10 April, 2798
Add Profile