Zooillogix

New research published in the journal, Animal Behavior, has shed light on an extraordinary adaptation of unborn cuttlefish: the ability to visualize prey while they are still in their egg casings. Even more astonishing is the findings that embryonic cuttlefish who were exposed to crabs preferred crabs as their meal-of-choice after they hatched. This is the first known evidence of embryonic visual learning by any creature in the world.

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Learning to kill…

Cuttlefish- a close relative of squids and octopuses -are known for…

…their ability to blend in seamlessly with their surroundings by changing their colors and for their relatively advanced reasoning abilities.

Ludovic Dickel and his team at the University of Caen Basse-Normandy, France, designed an ingenious experiment to test the cuttlefish’s visual development. They filled a tank with cuttlefish eggs and crabs. The eggs are clear and thus at least seem to allow the cuttlefish embryos to see out of them. Once the cuttlefish were born, Dickel instantly moved them away from the crabs for a period of seven days. He then returned the babies to a tank filled with crabs and shrimp, two common cuttlefish foods. Lo and behold, the babies who had spent their embryonic days watching crabs drastically preferred crabs, while control groups preferred shrimp.

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Any post about cuttlefish deserves gratuitous sweet cuttlefish pics

Studies have been performed on embryos’ learning abilities before, most notably with baby sea gulls, who were found to learn adult gulls’ warning calls while still in their eggs. It also has recently been proven that while only in the second trimester in our mother’s womb, Andrew learned to get what he wants by punching people.

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These cuttlefish eggs are clearly being taught to prefer cauliflower soup and anchovy ice cream as prey.

Comments

  1. #1 Coturnix
    June 6, 2008

    Did they account for possible olfactory cues?

  2. #2 Rosie Redfield
    June 6, 2008

    Yes, the crabs and cuttlefish embryos were in different compartments, with a clear glass wall between them.

  3. #3 Jives
    June 6, 2008

    Wow!
    That’s amazing.

    I can’t wait until this research gets flushed out a little more. It’ll be fascinating to see where else this leads to.

    They have a very short lifespan though (2 years?) so there might be evolutionary pressure to hatch as expert killing machines.

  4. #4 eric
    June 8, 2008

    That’s cool, I think this was the same group (lab) that did imprinting food pref on newly hatched cuttles a couple years ago. Similar results.. expose newly hatched cuttles (like within 12h of hatch) to crab and they will have a sig. preference for crab ever more. Show them more crabs in that period and the effect is stronger.

    Larval development, cuttlefish, and crabs… man that’s the Trifecta for me!

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    February 21, 2009

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    December 11, 2009

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    July 5, 2012

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