Sunday, 19 April 2015

Why does an octopus walk so funny?

April 18, 2015

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

Researchers have created a detailed kinematic analysis of how an octopus coordinates its arms while crawling, demonstrating for the first time how these cephalopods use a unique method of motor control to move in any direction relative to its body orientation.

Their findings, published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, indicate that octopuses use locomotion strategies that are unlike those found in other animals, and that this is probably due to the soft, bilaterally symmetrical bodies that required efficient control without a skeleton.

The research, which was led by scientists at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, builds upon previous work at the institution focusing on goal-directed arm movements such as reaching for a target or fetching food to the mouth. It is the first study to examine the larger, overall question of how an octopus manages to coordinate their eight long, flexible arms while moving.

How the creature of the depths evolved those slimy legs
The cephalopods likely evolved from animals more similar in nature to clams, with a protective outer shell and nearly no discernible movement, the authors said. As it evolved, the octopus lost their heavy protective shells, becoming both more maneuverable and more vulnerable. They had to move faster than other mollusks in order to compensate for the lack of a shell.

As they evolved long, slender arms, octopuses also gained improved vision, a brain that was both large and well developed, and the ability to use color to camouflage themselves. While this made them successful predators, the mechanisms they used to control their bodies remained unclear.

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