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I read on Britannica that all animals down to microorganisms are "information seeking", but there was no source to back up the claim.

One way to begin exploring curiosity is to understand ‘information seeking’. This behavior is observable across the entire animal kingdom – from apes and dolphins all the way down to crabs and tiny nematode worms. ‘Information seeking’ means that every animal seeks information about their environment. This is so they know how to navigate it. In fact, it’s why sensory organs exist – to supply the brain with information that helps you understand your environment and make better choices.

Are there any sources or facts to support these claims?

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    $\begingroup$ This might be a better question for the Philosophy stack. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ The answer is going to entirely depend on how you define "information seeking". How do you choose to define it? $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse Where is your evidence? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ Try slime-molds - an article regarding how they sense their environment and respond to it. It's a general assumption of any organism that moves or can act in any way, it's been observed and studied at all levels of size and complexity. In a world where it's eat or be eaten, it's more likely to lead to a successful life passing on genes to offspring if you can tell your food from a predator. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ For jellyfish, see rhopalium. But you really should try to look these things up for yourself before asking, it's a requirement here to show your research when posting, and comments aren't for the purpose of answering supplementary questions or starting discussions, just for offering guidance to new users as to how to use the site and suggesting improvements to the original post. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 23:27

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The answer is going to entirely depend on how you define "information seeking". How do you choose to define it? If Britannica does not define what they mean by "information seeking" then that statement is not useful by itself. It's common to encounter these sorts of statements in writing targeted to a non-specialist audience. They are not meant to be taken quite so literally, they're designed to get your mind working and exploring to help you interpret the next things they're going to say. So, let's look at what else they say:

This is so they know how to navigate it.

Not all animals even move, so for this to make sense for "all animals" it must be a pretty broad meaning of "navigate" to be true.

In fact, it’s why sensory organs exist – to supply the brain with information that helps you understand your environment and make better choices.

Every animal has some ability to sense the outside world; I'd argue that even every plant and single-celled organism does as well, this is an absolute requirement for life.

to supply the brain with information

Well, we're back to more specific then, many animal species do not have brains. Sponges, for one; cnidarians also, though they do have a nervous system they're not typically thought of as having a brain.

So, it seems that all Britannica means by "information seeking" is "somehow collect information from the outside world". That's not a very strong statement since "collecting information" can mean almost anything. But, it's also not the sort of thing anyone can prove: there could always be some hypothetical life out there that doesn't collect information but it's not anything we've found.

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  • $\begingroup$ I thought that mobility at some life stage was one of the primary characteristics of the animal kingdom, and that they must be eukaryotes. Many bacteria are non-motile, and they are prokaryotes. However, bacteria do reproduce under the right conditions, but does this involve "information"? Is it possible to react without "information"? Yeast doesn't move towards sugars. It does metabolize (react) sugar, though. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 2 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse Only as juveniles/gametes. The source quote specified animals but bacteria certainly process information about the outside world, even as simple as regulating enzymatic pathways in response to different food sources. My point is really that one can bicker indefinitely about what "counts" or not but it doesn't really provide any additional knowledge or understanding to do so. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 2 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ The world “seek” is the problem in my book. For me it implies conscious volition, which would differentiate it from merely *receiving” signals from the environment. The poster could do worse than investigate the history of the usage of the word, perhaps by inflicting himself on SE English Language and Usage. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Commented Jan 2 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ @David Yes, though a closer read of the original source does not make it seem that "conscious volition" is part of the claim being made; I'd consider the use of the word "seek" to be anthropomorphizing that is not really necessary. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 2 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse — Yes, the question is very much one of semantics, which is why I don't think the question admits a biological answer. However in a philosophical answer I would say that if one classes a simple bacterial response to environment as "seeking information" then the same is true for the response of a plant to light or gravity. Would one really be prepared to say that plants seek information? $\endgroup$
    – David
    Commented Jan 2 at 23:00

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