Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The octopus uses tools, solves mazes

Tool Use Found in Octopuses
Wired Science
Brandon Keim
December 14, 2009

After years of surprising scientists with their cleverness and smarts, some octopuses appear to also use tools.

Veined octopuses observed off the coast of Indonesia carried coconut shell halves under their bodies, and assembled them as necessary into shelters — something that wasn’t supposed to be possible in their corner of the animal kingdom.

“To date, invertebrates have generally been regarded as lacking the cognitive abilities to engage in such sophisticated behaviors,” wrote Museum Victoria biologists who described the octopuses in a paper published Monday in Current Biology. “The discovery of this octopus tiptoeing across the sea floor with its prized coconut shells suggests that even marine invertebrates engage in behaviors that we once thought the preserve of humans.”

In captivity, some species of octopuses have solved mazes, remembered cues and passed other cognitive tests typically associated with advanced vertebrates. More anecdotally, they’re known for popping aquarium hoods, raiding other tanks and demonstrating what might be called mischief.

All this has come as a bit of a surprise to scientists. After all, octopuses are descended from mollusks. They’re more closely related to clams than to people...

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