Octopus, Squid, Cuttlefish Researchers Huddle for Dialogue, Exchange

Octopus, Squid, Cuttlefish Researchers Huddle for Dialogue, Exchange

A lively discussion on whether cuttlefish can count (and how to experimentally test that question) wrapped up the weekly talk series by The Cephalopod Group, which was birthed at the MBL this summer. About 10-20 octopus, squid, and cuttlefish researchers attended the talks each week, organized by Heather Rhodes, Associate Director of the Grass Fellows Lab at MBL and Associate Professor of Biology at Denison University.

“I am new to cephalopod research myself, so I was excited to work with the Grass Fellows and the many experts at MBL to learn more,” says Rhodes, noting that three of the 2018 Grass Fellows worked with cephalopods.

“What I liked best about the meetings was the diversity of knowledge and interests in the room,” Rhodes says. “We had people brand new to cephalopods, those who have spent a career studying them, and everything in between. We had experts in anatomy, physiology, behavior, development, ecology, animal husbandry, and genomics all come together to share and learn. All were welcome to contribute, present, and ask questions. And a lot of us were able to get help with our projects through the group – people gave advice, loaned a book, e-mailed a reference, offered to teach a technique or loan a reagent.”

Rhodes got an assist in launching the Cephalopod Group from MBL Senior Scientist Roger Hanlon, who “offered strong encouragement early on and attended nearly every meeting.” Also enthusiastic were Bret Grasse, MBL Manager of Cephalopod Operations, and Lisa Abbo, MBL Veterinarian and Scientist. “We immediately added other faculty, visiting researchers, Whitman scientists, students, and researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution,” Rhodes says.

A range of speakers and topics in cephalopod research contributed to group discussions. A partial list includes: genomics and RNA editing (Matt McCoy, Stanford University/Grass Lab), chemosensation (Rhodes and Kaitlin Fouke, Denison University/Grass Lab), phylogenetics (Carrie Albertin, MBL), creating transgenics (Karen Crawford, St. Mary’s College of Maryland/MBL Whitman Center), camouflage (Tessa Montague, Columbia University/Grass Lab), imaging skin (Steve Senft, MBL), cognition (Alex Schnell, University of Caen/University of Cambridge/Grass Lab), effects of ocean acidification (Casey Zakroff, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), effects of anthropogenic sound (Ian Jones, WHOI), feeding and striking behavior (Andrea Fusco, Northeastern), and integer and fraction number sense (Chuan-Chin Chiao/National Tsing Hua University/Roger Hanlon collaborator).

Photo: The California two-spot octopus, Octopus bimaculoides. Credit: Tom Kleindinst