The octopus is a curious and quite resourceful creature and recent research has seen the cephalopod respond to visual stimuli on HDTVs giving scientists a better way to monitor and learn from their behavior. Before researchers were befuddled by the mercy of the creatures’ natural habitat when studying their reaction to visual cues, never knowing what will swim or crawl by distracting the highly-visual critters. This is when researchers from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science got the idea of bringing TV to the cephalopods.
They soon discovered playing video on a liquid crystal high definition television for gloomy octopuses (Octopus tetricus), they could accurately see how the animals reacted to prey (a crab), a new object (a jar), and a potential predator (another octopus), responses usually only seen in the ocean. Observations reveal that that the individual octopuses have episodic personalities, according to details of the study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology.
Lead author Renata Pronk, a marine biologist at Macquarie University in Australia, said in LiveScience, “This new video playback technique is great news for researchers, because they can use it to study many different aspects of octopus behavior that can’t otherwise be discerned using traditional techniques.”
Don’t let that exterior fool you. Octopuses can spot a fake when they see it, making it impossible for scientists to use mirrors, video or remote control devices impossible to use to study the cephalopods’ interactions in their environment. So in comes the HDTV and the octopuses responded as if they were the real deal.
On top of just the interaction, the researchers took it a step further to see if octopuses had a personality by exposing them to videos over the course of a few days. If an octopus has a distinct personality, the researchers would expect to see the same behaviors from a certain individual consistently over time. Yet during the experiment, an octopus showed interest in the video one day, and seemingly became bored the next. Pronk uncovered that the octopuses have episodic personalities, meaning they display consistent traits over short periods of time, but longer-term, their behaviors changed completely. “In short, they had what appear to be very short-lived personalities,” she said.
Interesting research and possibly a way to get that new big screen HDTV in the lab The Steinhart Aquarium for our resident ceph-head Rich Ross, but can’t see California Academy of Sciences picking up the tab for Direct TV.