Guy Levy, a member of the Octopus Group in the Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, and his team report that octopuses can reorient their bodies while continuing to crawl in a straight line, independently of their direction of movement. They slink around in all directions unlike other species that use their limbs to move forward or sideways according to their body's orientation.
The team's findings were presented earlier this month at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, California. Levy began the research as part of a project to design and control flexible, octopus-like robots, and says that the work could also help uncover basic biological principles of motion.
As reported by Scientific American and Nature magazines, the research was conducted using a transparent tank rigged with a system of mirrors and video cameras to track and deconstruct the movement of nine adult common octopuses. Prof. Binyamin Hochner, head of the Octopus Group and the project's principal investigator, says the results suggest that the octopus brain sends out high-level, goal-oriented commands, but leaves the details of movement execution to neurons in each of the arms. Other neuroscientists argue that these conclusions may be premature as decisions animals make on-the-fly in response to their environment may have an effect on the underlying template for crawling motion.
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