Well-known for his or her eight arms, octopuses leverage all of their appendages to maneuver, jet by way of the water and seize prey. However their actions can look awkward and seemingly unplanned at instances, extra intently resembling aliens than earthly creatures.
“Usually while you take a look at an octopus for a short time, nothing is repeatable. They squirm round… and simply look bizarre of their exploratory actions,” stated Trevor Wardill, an assistant professor within the Faculty of Organic Sciences who research octopuses and different cephalopods.
For a brand new examine in Present Biology, Wardill and colleagues investigated whether or not octopuses most well-liked sure arms over others when searching, somewhat than utilizing every arm equally. A greater understanding of how they use their arms will support efforts to develop next-generation extremely manipulative comfortable robots.
The analysis staff studied the California two-spot octopus, which dwell for about two years and develop to the dimensions of tennis balls. Octopus arms are numbered on either side of its physique, beginning on the heart. Researchers dropped various kinds of prey, together with crabs and shrimp, into the tanks and recorded video because the octopuses, who have been hiding in decorative SpongeBob “dens” with one eye going through outward, lunged for the snack. As a result of crabs transfer slowly whereas shrimp can flick their tails to flee rapidly, every sort of prey doubtlessly requires totally different searching techniques.
The researchers discovered:
- Octopuses used arms on the identical aspect as the attention viewing the prey.
- It doesn’t matter what sort of prey got here by, every octopus attacked utilizing the second arm from the center.
- When searching crabs, octopuses pounced on the prey with a cat-like motion, main with the second arm.
- When searching shrimp, the octopuses have been extra cautious to keep away from spooking the prey. They led with the second arm and after it made contact with the shrimp, they used neighboring arms one and three to safe it.
Flavie Bidel, the lead writer and a postdoctoral researcher within the lab, was shocked at how predictably octopuses started prey seize with the second arm. For creatures whose motion seems unpredictable, the searching habits was really exceedingly repeatable. One of many subsequent steps is to review how neurons facilitate the arm actions.
“Octopuses are extraordinarily robust. For them, to understand and open a door is trivial, given their dexterity. If we are able to be taught from octopuses, then we are able to apply that to creating an underwater automobile or comfortable robotic software,” stated Wardill. Underwater automobiles impressed by octopuses might play a vital position in deep ocean exploration.
Funding and help for this work was supplied by the Workplace of Naval Analysis. The Wardill lab relies within the Ecology, Evolution and Habits Division in CBS.