Neuroscience

Managing eight arms

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Science  01 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6234, pp. 537
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6234.537-g

A central control center allows octopuses to move their heads and eight arms independently

PHOTO: © AURIGADESIGN/ISTOCKPHOTO

How does the octopus control its long and flexible arms? Levy et al. used kinematic analysis, filming animals as they maneuvered, and found that octopuses evolved a unique way of efficiently generating and controlling crawling. They can crawl in any direction relative to their body orientation, a feature found only in animals with radial organization, such as starfish. However, in contrast to those animals, octopuses control the direction in which the body faces, independently of the crawling direction. Octopuses can thus change the crawling direction while maintaining a fixed gaze direction, or rotate their body while continuing to crawl in the same direction. This indicates the existence of a sophisticated central command generator in the motor centers of the octopus brain.

Curr. Biol. 25, 10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.064 (2015).

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