Visual cognition in octopods

In a series of experiments we want to analyse the visual cognitive abilities of octopods. At the moment we are conducting experiments on reversal learning and matching-to-sample. The data obtained shall help to form a solid experimental basis of the cognitive abilities that are both rumoured to be extraordinary. High cognitive abilities might be important for octopods in their short life span within which they even undergo a large change from a pelagic to a benthic life.

The video shows an octopus performing in a visual matching task. The task of the animal is to choose the comparison stimulus on the outer position which matches the sample in the middle. In this trial the octopus chooses correctly and is rewarded with a piece of crab.

Haptics in octopods

A prominent characteristics of octopods are their eight long arms which are equipped with succers carrying a magnitude of mechanoreceptors. These characteristics as well as observations that octopods seem to be very tactile animals led us to start an experiment on the haptic abilities of octopods. These have only been referred to anecdotally and thus need to be worked on in detail. At the moment we are running an experiment in which an octopus has to discriminate cylinders differing in size.

In the video (front view on the left side, top view on the right side) an octopus is entering the experimental box and chooses one of two cylinders by pulling it down. As it correctly chooses the larger stimulus it is being reinforced afterwards at the feeding tube.