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Octopus vs Rubik’s cube

octopus rubik corbis.JPGrubiks cube cc.jpgScientists have given octopuses Rubik’s cubes in an attempt to determine if they have a favourite tentacle, or if they are octidextrous (a word that seems to have been invented specifically for this story).

According to a number of British papers around 25 octopuses at aquariums across Europe will be given toys and visitors will be asked to record which arm they are using to play with them, using a diagram showing the arms as R1, R2, R3, R4 and L1, L2, L3, L4.

“Uniquely, octopuses have more than half their nerves in their arms and have been shown to partially think with their arms,” says Claire Little, of the Weymouth Sea Life Centre (Independent). “Many animals have been shown to favour a certain arm so we will see if octopuses can be added to that list.”

According to Little, the findings could help make life in captivity more pleasant for these intelligent, (and occasionally shark eating), animals. “They are very susceptible to stress, so if they do have a favourite side to be fed on, it could reduce risk to them,” she says (Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail).

No one has suggested that any of the octopuses will actually solve the puzzle, but there’s a very slim chance they might. At the risk of re-igniting the now dormant ‘Echinoderms or Molluscs’ blog war, show us a starfish that can do that…

Images: Octopus – Corbis / Rubik’s cube – photo by Culture-Culte via flickr and under Creative Commons


  1. Report this comment

    Boing Boing said:

    Octopuses play with Rubik’s Cubes

    Researchers from the Weymouth Sea Life Centre are providing octopuses with Rubik’s cubes to determine whether the animals prefer one tentacle over another, or another, or another, etc. I bet they secretly hope that one of the animals will solve the puz…

  2. Report this comment

    polvão said:

    I suspect the Rubik’s Cube may be better suited for favorable attention by the media than by the octopuses themselves. It’s well known that octopuses are clever, nimble escape artists and occasional (if accidental) puzzle solvers from the Lobster in a Corked Jar experiment.

    Do octopuses show a particular penchant for Rubik’s Cubes, more than, say, plastic easter eggs? In his book ‘The Soft Intelligence,’ I seem to remember Jacques Cousteau suggesting that some octopuses show a penchant for collecting objects, but that those choices were highly individual.

  3. Report this comment

    Jerry Chatter said:

    Someone will probably get a PhD in Biology for discovering this worthless bit of trivia and writing about it.

  4. Report this comment

    Sparky said:

    “Octidextrous” appears only in this story because the word is actually “octodextrous.”

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