2018 Grass Fellow Alex Schnell writes about her collaboration with MBL Senior Scientist Roger Hanlon and others, recently published in Proc. Royal Soc. B.
By Alexandra Schnell
When I enter the marine laboratory in the morning, there’s always a chance I’m about to get soaked. You see, our crankiest common cuttlefish, called Franklin, has recently taken to squirting a water jet at me from her tank. I’ve decided it’s her grumpy way of saying she doesn’t want to participate in experiments, because Franklin never hoses me during my evening visits, which is when I’m only in the lab to give her dinner.
Cuttlefish are clever creatures, and squirting saltwater is not their only party trick. They’re experts at camouflage, adjusting the colour and texture of their skin to match their environment. Plus, cuttlefish possess a range of advanced cognitive abilities, including a sophisticated memory, to help them optimise their foraging behaviour and adapt to changing prey conditions.
But Franklin’s selective squirting inspired me to test for another cognitive ability in cuttlefish: self-control, which might be what stops Franklin’s impulse to drench me during my evening visits. Read more …