Inner Senses | Harvard Magazine
This story mentions the MBL and Harvard researcher Nicholas Bellono's experiences with the Marine Resources Center.
When Nicholas Bellono brought a live California two-spot octopus back to his lab for the first time, he was nervous. Octopuses are highly intelligent. They’re also known to escape through the tiniest openings. “I just watched it for a bit,” he remembers. “It’s crazy, all the stuff that they do with their arms.” The 35-year-old associate professor of biology wondered what those arms were doing. “I looked them over to see if I could find sensory cells. I thought, maybe they detect light to help the animals know how to change their skin patterns for camouflage, or maybe they sense chemicals.”
A concerted research effort led by Bellono yielded the discovery that the suckers on the long arms are loaded with receptors that let octopuses taste what they touch. This allows them to probe dark and narrow crevices on the seafloor to locate and identify prey. The scientists also found that the sucker receptors had evolved from an ancestral cell type—but differently in octopuses than in their cephalopod cousins, the squid. “[Squid] don’t do exploration with their arms,” Bellono explains. Rather, they hunt visually, ensnaring prey with two long, hooked tentacles, which they use to draw their food within range of their eight arms and beak. Then they use their arms to taste what they have caught, deciding whether to accept or reject it as food. Bellono found that these ambush predators have more receptors that can sense water-soluble chemicals from their prey, particularly bitter tastes, and far fewer of the hydrophobic sensory cells found in octopus suckers that require physical contact to sense any object’s chemical signature. Read the full story...
Source: Inner Senses | Harvard Magazine