Top of the Class: Communication, Miscommunication and Learning Essay

Submitted By Laura-Dickinson
Words: 8143
Pages: 33


Top of their Class: Communication, Miscommunication and Learning in Cuttlefishes and Octopuses
Laura M. Dickinson*

1. Introduction
2. Systematics and evolutionary context
3. Communication and miscommunication
3.1. Chromatophores
3.2. Iridophores
3.3. Leucophores
3.4. Texture, posture and locomotion
3.5. Body patterns 3.5.1. Interspecific communication 3.5.2. Intraspecific communication
3.6. Polarized Light 3.6.1. Vision 3.6.2. Signal production and communication
4. Learning
4.1. Neurophysiology of Learning
4.2. Associative Learning
4.4. Spatial learning
4.5. Social and observational learning
5. Summary

1. Introduction

When asked to conjure up an image of a mollusk, most may not immediately bring octopuses and cuttlefishes to mind. However, these animals are in fact cephalopods within the phylum Mollusca (Hochner, 2006). For centuries, cephlopods were commonly viewed as unintelligent creatures, even by such well-known scientists as Aristole, because they could easily be captured by just waving one’s hand nearby in the water (Amodio and Fiorito, 2013). However, our opinion of cephalopods has evolved over the past century and now octopuses and cuttlefishes are widely acknowledged for their curiosity and penchant for exploration (Amodio and Fiorito, 2013). These traits are associated with advanced cognitive ability, which is defined as “the process of knowing in the broadest sense, including perception, memory and judgment” (Webster, 2001) or “the mechanisms by which animals acquire, process, store and act on information” (Mather specialties). The most advantageous capabilities exhibited by cephalopods, particularly octopuses and cuttlefishes, include unique communication methods through the manipulation of organs within the skin and the ability to learn within natural and laboratory environments. These abilities have led to incredible success among these animals in the wild and they have survived for millions of years as fairly solitary, soft-bodied animals in environments with voracious predators and complex circumstances (Vitti). This paper reviews communication methods and learning in octopuses and cuttlefishes.

2. Systematics and evolutionary context

The presence of mollusks has been dated back to the early Paleozoic Era, more than 500 million years ago (invert notes). Although the systematics of mollusks is constantly being modified, there are common trends that exist in present phylogenic trees. Throughout geologic time mollusks have diverged frequently, leading them to be one of the most dissimilar grouping of animals within a phylum. Beginning with Lophotrochozoa, it takes 4 divergences to lead us to the focus of this topic, the class Cephalopoda, which appeared during the end of the Cambrian period (Messenger). Cephalopods have also diverged further into the subclass Coleoidea, during the late Triassic Period (Messenger), and later into two superorders, the Decapodiformes and the Octopodiformes (Berkley website). The two families that are focused on in this review are Octopodidae and Sepiidae, commonly known as the octopus and the cuttlefish. These families show significant changes in morphology, physiology and behavior that greatly impact the success of these animals. The success of octopod and decapod species cannot be denied. They have survived multiple mass extinctions and countless predators for millions of years (invert notes). Currently, they exist in every facet of the ocean, from intertidal to bentic, tropic to polar. In each of these environments, they are important predators within the food web, keeping the population of other mollusks and crustaceans at bay and providing food for fishes and sharks as well (Vitti). In addition to