A study on octopus sensory biology led by MBL scientists Kendra Buresch and Roger Hanlon has received the 2023 Editors’ Choice Award in the Original Paper Category from the Journal of Comparative Physiology.

Using “an ingenious behavioral assay,” the editors wrote, Buresch et al. showed that octopuses can detect prey solely based on contact chemosensing (tasting).

“While under natural conditions, a combination of mechanical and chemical cues, and perhaps even a dermal light sense, likely contributes to prey identification, this investigation highlights the importance of contact chemoreception for prey detection,” the editors wrote.

“The study, therefore, impressively illustrates the different sensory world of octopuses as compared to the one we perceive in our daily life.”

Co-authors of the study include five Northeastern University students who were on co-op (interning) at the MBL.

This work was funded by the Office of Naval Research.

Octopus experimental set up
Lab experimental design to test for octopus taste discrimination without visual input ("blind searching"). Credit: Gwen McManus



K.C. Buresch, K. Sklar, J.Y. Chen, S.R. Madden, A.S. Mongil, G.V. Wise, J.G Boal & R.T. Hanlon (2022) Contact chemoreception in multi-modal sensing of prey by Octopus. J. Comp. Physiol. A, DOI: 10.1007/s00359-022-01549-y