Octopus stripes can act as a unique ID

Octopus image with brown and white stripes

Octopus image with brown and white stripes
enlarge / Wonderpus, one of two species of octopus that we can now recognize by the unique pattern of their stripes.

Octopuses and other camouflaged cephalopods may be the literal embodiment of “now you see me, now you don’t.” Both use fast color And By changing textures, the octopus can blend into almost any environment by mimicking things like fish on the ocean floor or plants swaying with the waves. The seamless camouflage of cephalopods makes it difficult for researchers to identify, track, and observe these creatures in the wild, which has limited our ability to study them.

This may change for some species thanks to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, published in PLOS ONE. UC Berkeley researchers are studying the lesser Pacific striped octopus (also called the zebra octopus, Octopus chirchia), found that animal stripe patterns seemed to be as individual as our fingerprint patterns. As this tiny cephalopod has previously been recommended as a new model organism for future studies, having these octopus “fingerprints” could help strengthen it. O. chierchiae’s Positioned as the poster child for cephalopod research.

Laboratory Octopus Cultivation

Studying octopuses in the lab is not for the faint of heart. Most species typically live between one and three years and produce only one egg during that time, making it difficult to track any genetic lineage. Their intelligence and unpredictable behavior make them difficult to keep in artificial habitats. Octopuses are predatory creatures, so they require the mental stimulation of prey along with a special diet to maintain their well-being. Previous studies have shown that caged octopuses will cannibalize each other without proper nutrition.

O. Chirchia proved to be an exception. Its small body makes it easy to maintain, and unlike most of its relatives, it will produce a clutch of eggs every 30 to 90 days, making it easy to track genetic traits. This octopus can live up to eight years. And now, researchers will also be able to identify specific individuals in their studies.

Only one other cephalopod species has previously been identified by its stripes: wonderpus photogenicus, Also known as Wonderpus. like O. Chirchia, Wonderpus is a small octopus with individual black and white stripes. The UC Berkeley researchers were curious to see if this personalization translated O. Chirchia.

“Originally, we were just trying to figure out how to breed them in captivity, but we noticed that all the individuals looked different, and we could easily identify them by their stripe patterns, even if they escaped from their labeled jars into larger ones. tank,” explained researchers Benjamin Liu, Leo Song, Soumitra Kelkar and Anna Ramji. “Dr. Roy Caldwell, our mentor and P.I. [principal investigator] The lab recommended that we investigate whether this could be useful for studying this species.”

As the team explained: “Dr. Christine Hufford, one of Caldwell’s former graduate students, led the study on unique body patterns. Wonderpus photogenicus, an Indo-Pacific octopus species. In that paper, the authors showed that the body patterns of adult octopuses remain stable in aquariums and captured photos that show a single individual octopus in the wild over several months.”

When raising a new clutch of O. Chirchias, The team found similarities with what Hufford saw. “We noticed that the baby octopuses we were rearing seemed to retain the striped pattern from the age the stripes first appeared – the stripe pattern never changed, it just grew in proportion to the animal, in every baby octopus we reared and observed,” they added. “We thought this was interesting and worth reporting, and may be useful for potential studies of the species’ life history and ecology in the wild.”

UC Berkeley researchers looked at 25 of the 156 octopuses they had in the lab and were able to photograph their striped patterns. While the pattern does not appear until the fifth day of the hatchling’s existence, these stripes will remain with them throughout their lives. Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Washington Dr. “The dominant stripes are landmarks on the skin,” explained Z Yan Wang. “They are dynamic in the sense that they can get darker or lighter. But as far as we know, the specific stripes themselves are permanent.

To test their hypothesis, UC Berkeley researchers asked 38 volunteers to view photos of two raising chicks. O. Chirchia Try to determine whether the octopus and the animals were different. What they found confirmed that the octopuses had their own “fingerprint” signatures, as the volunteers saw the differences 84 percent of the time, with more than half of the volunteers seeing the differences 90 percent or more of the time.

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