From February 2014 to February 2015, I collaborated with the Marine Biology Lab at Woods Hole, USA, to study cuttlefish, an invertebrate marine animal related to octopus and squid, from the perspective of neuroscience. My primary goal was to learn about their behaviour, how to take care of them, and how to modify our lab’s behaviour experiment setups for rats to work with cuttlefish. I took care of cuttlefish in all stages of their life cycle and even developed unique relationships with individuals.
Before I started any experiments, I spent most of my days feeding the cuttlefish hatchlings and cleaning their home tubs:
Taking care of the cuttlefish on a daily basis taught me a lot about their behaviour, especially their hunting behaviour. I tried out many different experimental setups to study their hunting behaviour more closely, and learned a lot about arduinos and cameras and how to film sea creatures before I came up with the final design of the Cuttle Shuttle experiment.
Many thanks to Kendra Buresch, Stephen Senft, Alex Schnell, Andrew Carvey, Arthur Petron, Troy McInerney, Kelsey Cramer, Corinne Cramer, Andrea Rummell, George Bell, Alan Kuzirian, Barbara Burbank, Lyda Harris, Dan Calzarette, and Roger T Hanlon for their support and assistance at Woods Hole during this project. Additional thanks to Adam Kampff and the Intelligent Systems lab for enabling and supporting this collaboration.
In this experiment, cuttlefish must hunt for their food 4 days out of 7; their prey is a piece of shrimp at the end of an arduino-controlled skewer. We wanted to ask the following questions:
Can cuttlefish hunt artificial prey? If so, how complex of an artificial prey can cuttlefish hunt?
Does the cuttlefish display a reliable sequence of body patterns when it first notices the prey?
Does the cuttlefish display a reliable sequence of body patterns when it catches its prey?
What are the firing dynamics of cuttlefish tentacles?
Want to get involved?
The most current draft of my experimental protocol.
Videos of the experimental sessions can be found online here:
Hunting Behaviour Ethogram
Below are acrylic models I made to show the main phases of a cuttlefish hunt:
Below are some initial plots that show the frequency of different hunting events during each cuttlefish’s daily session in the Cuttle Shuttle hunting box:
Further analysis work on the Cuttle Shuttle video dataset can be found here.