Video Footage: Is This Octopus Having a Nightmare?

Costello the octopus was napping while stuck to the glass of his tank at the Rockefeller University in New York. He snoozed quietly for half an hour, and then entered a more active sleep stage, his skin cycling through colors and textures used for camouflage — typical behavior for a cephalopod.

But soon things became strange.

A minute later, Costello scuttled along the glass toward his tank’s sandy bottom, curling his arms over his body. Then he spun like a writhing cyclone. Finally, Costello swooped down and clouded half of his tank with ink. As the tank’s filtration system cleared the ink, Eric Angel Ramos, a marine scientist, noticed that Costello was grasping a pipe with unusual intensity, “looking like he was trying to kill it,” he said.

“This was not a normal octopus behavior,” said Dr. Ramos, who is now at the University of Vermont. It’s not clear when or if Costello woke up during the episode, Dr. Ramos said. But afterward, Costello returned to normal, eating and later playing with his toys.

“We were completely dumbfounded,” said Marcelo O. Magnasco, a biophysicist at Rockefeller. Perhaps Costello was having a nightmare, he and a team of researchers speculated. They shared this idea and other possible explanations in a study uploaded this month to the bioRxiv website. It has yet to be formally reviewed by other scientists.

But he also acknowledged that “this is one isolated instance on an animal that had its own peculiarities.”

There are other explanations for the behavior, such as a seizure or neurological problems, which could be related to Costello having lost parts of two limbs before he was caught. But Dr. Magnasco said he hoped that, by reporting the incident, other scientists would watch out for the behavior, which his group observed by mere chance.

In their own research, Dr. Kuba and Dr. Gutnick recently recorded electrical signals from an octopus’s brain. That opens the possibility that researchers could snoop on octopuses’ brain activity during sleep and maybe connect behaviors and body patterning during sleep with shifts of brainwaves to study processes linked to dreaming.

But that is not necessarily related to this observation, Dr. Gutnick said, adding, “You have to show that they have dreams before you think about nightmares.”

Sahred From Source link Science

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.