Octopus fishing patterns have implications for life-inspired robot design – ScienceDaily

Octopuses are known for their eight arms, and make use of all of their appendages to move, jet through the water and catch prey. But their movements can seem awkward and seemingly unplanned at times, closer to aliens than terrestrial creatures.

said Trevor Wardle, an assistant professor in the College of Biological Sciences who studies octopuses and other cephalopods.

For a new study in current biologyWardle and his colleagues investigated whether octopuses prefer certain arms over others when hunting, rather than using each arm equally. A better understanding of how they use their arms will aid efforts to develop the next generation of highly manipulative soft robots.

The research team studied the California two-spot octopus, which lives for about two years and grows to the size of tennis balls. The arms of the octopus are numbered on each side of its body, starting from the center. The researchers dumped various types of prey, including crabs and shrimp, into the tanks and recorded videos while the octopuses, hiding in SpongeBob’s decorated “dens” with one eye facing out, dipped in to grab their snack. Since crabs move slowly while shrimp can move their tails to escape quickly, each type of prey will likely require different hunting techniques.

The researchers found:

  • Octopuses used their arms on the same side as their eyes looking at the prey.
  • No matter what kind of prey came, each octopus attacked using the second arm from the middle.
  • When hunting crabs, the octopuses pounced on the prey with a cat-like motion, driving the second arm.
  • When hunting shrimp, octopuses were more careful to avoid blowing up prey. They drove with the second arm and after it touched the shrimp, they used one and three adjacent arms to secure it.

Flavi Biddle, lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the lab, was shocked by how octopuses predictably start capturing prey with the second arm. For creatures whose movement seemed unpredictable, hunting behavior was actually highly reproducible. One of the next steps is to study how neurons facilitate arm movements.

“Octopuses are very strong,” Wardle said. “For them, holding and opening a door is trivial, given their skill. If we can learn from octopuses, we can apply that to making an underwater vehicle or applying a soft robot.” Octopus-inspired underwater vehicles could play an important role in deep ocean exploration.

Funding and support for this work was provided by the Office of Naval Research. Wardill’s lab is located in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at CBS.

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Materials Introduction of University of Minnesota. Note: Content can be modified according to style and length.

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