Octopuses Essay

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Learning and Consciousness in Octopuses Cephalopods are known to be exceptionally intelligent by invertebrate standards and in some respects even rival “higher” vertebrates. These animals have many highly evolved sensory and processing organs that allow them to gain a greater understanding of their environment and their place within it. Due to their advanced structures, many of which are analogous to vertebrate structures, and abilities they have been widely studied. Their methods of learning have been of prime interest and many experiments have been conducted to determine the different ways in which octopuses can learn. From these experiments four main kinds of learning have been identified in octopuses: associative learning, special learning,…show more content…
This system is able to process information quickly due to the short distances between neurons (Williams, 2011). Williams (2011) notes, by invertebrate standards, octopuses show exceptional cognitive mental capabilities that are rivaled only by some of the “higher” vertebrates, such as chimpanzees, dolphins, and humans. The decentralized design of the nervous system allows for decision making at different levels, i.e.: in the brain, or in the arms, which possess their own peripheral nervous system (Mather & Kuba, 2013; Stolzenburg, 1993). The arm’s nervous system has twice as much “neural firepower” as the brain and contains approximately three-fifths of all the body’s neurons (Stolzenburg, 1993; Williams, 2011). This portion of the nervous system is semi-autonomous, performing with minimal input from the brain but, when necessary, can exert centralized control over the arms (Godfrey-Smith, 2013; Williams, 2011). The arms also contain several sensory organs, including statocysts, olfactory organs and a system that is analogous to the lateral line in fishes (Alves et al.,…show more content…
Spatial learning is the ability of an organism to memorize their environment and to use this information to navigate within it. Boal et al. (2000) notes that this type of learning has been demonstrated by other inverts. It has been demonstrated that through spatial learning, octopuses can remember where they have been and have an understanding of distance, likely by utilizing a cognitive map and a working memory (Boal et al., 2000; Mather, 2006; Mather & Kuba, 2013; Stolzenburg, 1993). They also have the ability to orient themselves in space, even when displaced by experimenters and have been shown to use moving landmarks to do so (Alves et al., 2008; Boal et al., 2000; Mather, 2006; Mather & Kuba, 2013). These abilities allow them to navigate many different areas and consistently find their way home. Octopuses often forage far from home and their paths to and from the den do not usually overlap nor do they use the same route multiple times, indicating that they know where they have been and that food will no longer be available there (Boal et al., 2000; Hvorency et al., 2007; Mather, 2006; Mather & Kuba,

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