How Complex is Cephalopod Communication?

ckeiser

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No new evidence that I've found. However, T.H. Bullock did some experiments on cuttlefish in the late 90's in which no response was elicited, but it seems he was not convinced these results were biologically relevant or an artifact of experimental design. Seems like there is a dissertations waiting to be written for someone out there!

Good question, hagenaue, thanks for keeping the thread alive!
 

gjbarord

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I think there is a larger question within these and other similar discussions: Why is there so much pressure on labeling non-human animal behaviors with humanistic definitions for behavior? The answer, in my opinion, is that it is much easier to funding for research if you are trying to relate human behavior to animal behavior... Of course that could be my bias because of my focus on nautilus, haha.

All animals communicate in some manner; visually, verbally, chemically, etc. Language is simply a part of animal communication. Not even all humans use verbal language due to loss of hearing, i.e. sign language. Due to all of these different types of communication, many species may not be able to communicate between them. Just as dogs and cats are unable to "tell" us where it hurts, we can't "tell" an octopus or lion where we hurt. It is not surprising that there is a human bias because we are all humans after all. Humans may possibly possess the greatest diversity of communication because we use verbal, visual, and even chemical (to the detriment of others in a subway sometimes) to interact with other people.

To sum up that mess, it is easy to say that it is just a result of semantics but I think that might downplay how important semantics actually are in our culture. Words are important!!

Greg
 

tonmo

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Watching "Killer Squid" on Animal Planet right now, and saw the segment with the strong suggestion from Dr. Michael Vecchione that even humbolt squid have complex communication methods (and humbolt only change between two colors - red and white).
 
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gjbarord;167754 said:
All animals communicate in some manner; visually, verbally, chemically, etc. Language is simply a part of animal communication. Not even all humans use verbal language due to loss of hearing, i.e. sign language. Due to all of these different types of communication, many species may not be able to communicate between them. Just as dogs and cats are unable to "tell" us where it hurts, we can't "tell" an octopus or lion where we hurt. It is not surprising that there is a human bias because we are all humans after all. Humans may possibly possess the greatest diversity of communication because we use verbal, visual, and even chemical (to the detriment of others in a subway sometimes) to interact with other people.

To a limited degree we can sort of communicate between species; we can infer from animal behavior where it hurts, e.g. if a dog is dragging its leg or a cat is limping. There are common physiological needs between all organisms. In addition, if an animal has a sufficiently advanced brain, they may have common psychological needs. It is harder to figure out their psychological needs, but if an animal is communicating because it needs to fulfill a physiological need, one can sort of work out what signals they use to send the message.

This is also limited by the ability of the brain to comprehend the other animal. Telling an octopus that we hurt is likely beyond the animal's capability to understand. (Perhaps if we made a move to defend it we could see what happens - if a person got in a tank with an octopus and hid their arm, they could figure out if it triggers any reactions.)

It's not really in the diversity of methods we use - plenty of animals use visual, verbal, and chemical means of communication. The difference is in the complexity.
 

ckeiser

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Of course interspecific (between species) signaling occurs, e.g. warning coloration in prey species. Those bright colors are a warning to predators of other species, not to members of their own species.

When I use the word "complexity" when referring to biological phenomena, I'm not (or at least I try my best not to) relating it to human perceptions. I think complexity in cephalopod signaling means a diverse repertoire of signals, some of which can be continuous (a range of hues instead of discrete colors), some of which are context specific (a squid knows exactly when she should signal a specific body pattern), and many of which are beyond human perception (e.g. polarized light). Visual signaling in many cephalopods is complex because, with only using simple chromatophores, iridophores, and other dermal components, a vast repertoire of inter- and intraspecific signals can be produced.

Greg - do you know much about chemical communication in your nautiloids? Do they exhibit many pheromone-mediated behaviors?
 

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