Did you know that animals might have their own wild dreams, just like us humans?
Recent research suggests that dreaming isn’t exclusive to humans and can occur in a wide range of species. From spiders to cuttlefish, these critters may be having their own dream experiences!
Let’s start with spiders. Observations of young jumping spiders have shown behaviours similar to REM sleep, which is associated with vivid dreaming in humans. Scientists believe that these spiders might actually have dream experiences. During REM-like stages, spiders exhibit specific eye movements, resembling the eye movements that occur during human dreaming. Researchers are currently exploring whether these highly visual creatures benefit from dreams as a way to process daily information.
Spiders are not the only ones. Studies have also found signs of REM sleep in other animals such as lizards, cuttlefish, and even zebrafish.
The growing number of species exhibiting REM-like stages challenges the belief that only humans experience complex dream states. However, it is important to note that different species have different patterns of REM sleep. For example, some animals like whales may not experience REM sleep at all.
Cuttlefish, for instance, exhibit a sleep-like state with REM-like behaviours, including rapid eye movements and changes in body colour. This intriguing phenomenon has been extensively studied by behavioural biologist Teresa Iglesias. It’s not just limited to cuttlefish; octopuses and bearded dragons have also been found to have REM-like stages.
As fascinating as this research is, determining whether animals really dream is still a challenge. Animals cannot communicate their experiences, making it difficult to fully understand their dream states. The exact purpose of REM sleep is a topic of debate among scientists. Some believe it helps with memory formation and reorganisation, brain development, or maintains necessary brain function for waking activities.
To delve deeper into the mysteries of animal dreaming, researchers are adopting innovative techniques. For example, they are developing imaging techniques to examine spider brains and capturing electrical activity in squid and octopus brains. These studies could shed light on the intriguing world of animal consciousness.