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 occasions, extra intently resembling aliens than earthly creatures.
“Usually while you have a look at an octopus for a short time, nothing is repeatable. They squirm round… and simply look bizarre of their exploratory actions,” mentioned 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 popular sure arms over others when looking, quite than utilizing every arm equally. A greater understanding of how they use their arms will help efforts to develop next-generation extremely manipulative mushy robots.
The analysis group studied the California two-spot octopus, which dwell for about two years and develop to the scale of tennis balls. Octopus arms are numbered on both sides of its physique, beginning on the middle. 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 dealing with outward, lunged for the snack. As a result of crabs transfer slowly whereas shrimp can flick their tails to flee rapidly, every kind of prey probably requires completely different looking techniques.
The researchers discovered:
- Octopuses used arms on the identical aspect as the attention viewing the prey.
- It doesn’t matter what kind of prey got here by, every octopus attacked utilizing the second arm from the center.
- When looking crabs, octopuses pounced on the prey with a cat-like motion, main with the second arm.
- When looking 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 creator 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 looking conduct was really exceedingly repeatable. One of many subsequent steps is to check how neurons facilitate the arm actions.
“Octopuses are extraordinarily sturdy. 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 mushy robotic utility,” mentioned Wardill. Underwater autos impressed by octopuses might play an important function in deep ocean exploration.
Funding and help for this work was offered by the Workplace of Naval Analysis. The Wardill lab relies within the Ecology, Evolution and Habits Division in CBS.
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