Monday, June 8, 2009

Octopuses given Rubik's Cubes to find out if they have a favourite tentacle

Marine experts have given 25 octopuses a Rubik's Cube each in a study aimed at easing their stress levels in captivity.

Scientists believe the intelligent sea creatures have a preferred arm out of eight that they use to feed and investigate with. They are now testing this theory with a month-long observation project in which the octopuses will be given food and toys to play with. They will then record whether the creatures use a specific limb to pick up the object or if they are octidextrous. It is hoped the results of the Sea Life Centre study will shed light on 'handiness' in the animal kingdom.

Claire Little, marine expert at the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth, Dorset, said the study could eventually help to reduce stress among octopuses. She said: "It will be very interesting to see the results. Uniquely, octopuses have more than half their nerves in their arms and have even been shown to partially think with their arms. We hope the study will help the overall well-being of octopuses. They are very susceptible to stress so if they do have a favourite side to be fed on, it could reduce risk to them."

The octopus research will take place in the 23 branches of the Sea Life Centre attractions Britain and Europe. [...] The results will be analysed by Sea Life Centre biologists and the results will be announced in the autumn.

Full article here.

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