Does Octopus vulgaris Have Preferred Arms?

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Abstract

Previous behavioral studies in Octopus vulgaris revealed lateralization of eye use. In this study, the authors expanded the scope to investigate arm preferences. The octopus's generalist hunting lifestyle and the structure of their arms suggest that these animals have no need to designate specific arms for specific tasks. However, octopuses also show behaviors, like exploration, in which only single or small groups of arms are involved. Here the authors show that octopuses had a strong preference for anterior arm use to reach for and explore objects, which points toward a task division between anterior and posterior arms. Four out of 8 subjects also showed a lateral bias. In addition, octopuses had a preference for a specific arm to reach into a T maze to retrieve a food reward. These findings give evidence for limb-specialization in an animal whose 8 arms were believed to be equipotential.

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