Scientists 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…