Video playback demonstrates episodic personality in the gloomy octopus

Wilson, David R. and Pronk, Renata and Harcourt, R. (2010) Video playback demonstrates episodic personality in the gloomy octopus. Journal of Experimental Biology, 213 (7). pp. 1035-1041. ISSN 0022-0949

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Coleoid cephalopods, including octopuses, cuttlefish and squid, rely mainly on visual signals when interacting with conspecifics, predators and prey. Presenting visual stimuli, such as models, photographs, mirrors and live conspecifics, can thus provide insight into cephalopod behaviour. These methods, however, have limitations – mirrors and live animals lack experimental control, whereas models and photographs sacrifice motion-based information. Video playback addresses these issues by presenting controlled, moving and realistic stimuli but, to date, video playback has not been used successfully with any cephalopod. Here, we developed a video playback technique for the gloomy octopus (Octopus tetricus) that incorporated recent advances in video technology. We then used this technique to test for personality, which we defined as behavioural differences between individuals that are consistent over time and across ecologically important contexts. We captured wild octopuses and tested them on 3 separate days over a 10 day period. On each test day, subjects were presented with videos of a food item, a novel object and a conspecific. These represented a foraging, novel and threatening context, respectively. A fourth video without a moving stimulus controlled for the playback monitor itself and potential artifacts associated with video playback. Experimental stimuli evoked unambiguous and biologically appropriate responses from the subjects. Furthermore, individuals' responses to the three experimental contexts were highly correlated within a given test day. However, within a given context, individuals behaved inconsistently across the 3 test days. The reordering of ranks suggests that rather than fulfilling the criteria for personality, gloomy octopus show temporal discontinuities, and hence display episodic personality.

Item Type: Article
Item ID: 9783
Keywords: Octopus tetricus, cephalopod, video playback, visual signal
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Psychology
Science, Faculty of > Psychology
Date: 1 April 2010
Date Type: Publication
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