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Mirror recognition by GPO?

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Nov 20, 2002
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I'm posting this to the Physiology and Biology Forum because there doesn't seem to be a specific forum for behavior and psychology.

On a recent nature show -- whose name I unfortunately don't recall -- I saw a mind-blowing example of cephalopod intelligence. A diver made a few visits to a GPO in the area of her sea-floor den (I believe it was a female), and decided to try a psychological experiment. He brought down a large mirror, and when the GPO approached him, he showed her the mirror.

Having seen a nature show in which a male Cuttlefish made escalating aggression displays to his image in a mirror (thinking it was another male), I fully expected the GPO to react to her reflection as if it were another GPO.... as did the diver.

We were both wrong. After reaching out to the mirror and touching it briefly, the GPO actually extended her arms around the mirror and began to explore behind it, as if she knew full well that this was some sort of artificial device rather than another GPO!

This freaked me out completely. Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know even dogs and cats react to their reflections as if they are other individuals of the same species. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the only other species who recognize their reflections as reflections are great apes and dolphins.

Has anyone else here seen the nature show I refer to, or might be familiar with this experiment on a GPO? If so, do you think this experiment implies that the GPO may be intellectually superior to most mammals in the specific case of mirror-reflection recognition?

Still amazed by this footage....

Tani
 

DWhatley

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Tani,
It may have something to do with the way the octopus sees (physically) rather than intelligence. The reflection may not even look like another octopus to her. Several people have considered adding a mirror to observe behavior but I don't recall anyone actually doing it. Thales?
 

gjbarord

Sepia elegans
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Intelligence is a peculiar characteristic in the animal kingdom. We tend to think that higher animals such as primates are much more intelligent than lower animals such as snails.

There was a post about intelligence on another cephalopod list serve yesterday. The question was exploring actual definitions of intelligence. Depending on your definition, intelligence can change. Who is to stay roaches are not intelligent?? They behave exactly as they should in order to survive and have so for millions and millions and millions of years.

I am not really sure what definition of intelligence I would subscribe to. Some jellyfish release their eggs and sperm when under stressful conditions as a defense mechanism. Intelligent?

As for the question, I would not label octopus as intellectual superiors to mammals solely on this mirror experiment. Cuttlefish have elaborate mating rituals. Would it not be more intelligent to flash these displays at any sign of a conspecific rather than risk an altercation by exploring the individual closer.

The video does sound interesting and I wish I would have seen it.

Greg
(probably more than you wanted to hear) :sleeping:
 

monty

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http://www.polarization.com/octopus/octopus.html describes how cuttles react to mirrors, for what that's worth.

I'm not a big believer in some absolute measure of intelligence, but I do think cephs stand out among molluscs and invertebrates in general (although the stomatopod, bee, and jumping spider fans all come out of the woodwork when I say they're the "only" intelligent inverts). I guess the types of learning are often used as guidelines, and in that regard they seem to do comparably to most vertebrates, which is impressive.

To me, what's interesting is not so much an absolute comparison of "is an octo as smart as a rat? a cat? a monkey?" sorts of questions, but rather that an octopus is evolutionarily quite distant from most of the animals that show sophisticated learning behaviors, so their nervous systems have taken a rather different path even than the smart arthropods; the last common ancestor cephs have with anything "smart" was probably some sort of worm. So asking "how do cephs do what they do, and in what ways is that similar to or different from other smart animals?" is the question that fascinates me, since it gives us an opportunity to observe what things developed in common in convergent evolution to intelligent behavior, and also what mechanisms lead to similar (or different) intelligent behaviors but have a completely different underlying mechanism. If we understand both how our own brains work, and how completely different brains work to do similar tasks, we have a lot better chance of understanding the general principles of brains rather than being stuck in "because this is the way our brains do this, this is the best/only way" assumptions.
 

Jean

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Perhaps we're groping with the difference between sapience and sentience here??????

Sentience refers to utilization of sensory organs, the ability to feel or perceive subjectively, not necessarily including the faculty of self-awareness. The possession of sapience is not a necessity.

Sapience usually defined as wisdom or discernment, is the ability of an organism or entity to act with judgment.

my :twocents: :biggrin2:

J
 

monty

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does learning fall under sentience or sapience? Is sentience only hardwired stimulus-response, or can it include adaptive behaviors?
 

gjbarord

Sepia elegans
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The ability to learn often coincides with animals of higher intelligence. Thus, the ability to adapt is correlated to the animal's ability to learn. WHY??

Many animals can adapt to their environment without learning how. A bull shark did not learn how to enter freshwater, the shark was able to evolve. Few people would label sharks as intelligent animals. They have been around for millions of years with the same basic body plan and are built perfectly for the ocean. It seems that instinct is often over-looked for animals that can use 'tools' in their everyday life.

The ability to learn is a secondary by-product of over-sized brains. These over-sized brains then require increased blood flow and energy to keep functioning correctly. (has anyone read Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos??)

Certainly not a topic that can be answered easily. While all organisms are evolving at different rate, some creatures have remained the same for millions of years. Perhaps these animals are the most intelligent of all...

Greg
 

monty

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gjbarord;100019 said:
The ability to learn often coincides with animals of higher intelligence. Thus, the ability to adapt is correlated to the animal's ability to learn. WHY??

Many animals can adapt to their environment without learning how. A bull shark did not learn how to enter freshwater, the shark was able to evolve. Few people would label sharks as intelligent animals. They have been around for millions of years with the same basic body plan and are built perfectly for the ocean. It seems that instinct is often over-looked for animals that can use 'tools' in their everyday life.

The ability to learn is a secondary by-product of over-sized brains. These over-sized brains then require increased blood flow and energy to keep functioning correctly. (has anyone read Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos??)

Certainly not a topic that can be answered easily. While all organisms are evolving at different rate, some creatures have remained the same for millions of years. Perhaps these animals are the most intelligent of all...

Greg
Learning is one way of having an organism adapt to its environment, as is natural selection. But learning allows the individual animal to adapt over the course of its lifetime, while selection while natural selection operates on the population over the course of many generations. When generations are really fast, like in bacteria or fruit flies, sometimes that can lead to rapid changes, but for animals with longer lives, learning is a more rapid way to adapt, if maybe less directly correlated to survival (the individual doesn't learn from fatal mistakes... but "that which does not kill you makes you stronger" sometimes applies.) In animals that teach their offspring or learn things by observing conspecifics, it's sort of more Lamarckian than Darwinian, too, which is sort of interesting... "Lamarckian Memetics" or something. Of course, there are other organism-level adaptations that are not learning in the neurbiology sense, like the immune system "learning" about a pathogen and then attacking it if it's encountered again (and having a diverse pool of immune markers is a population-level adaptation of the gene pool for disease resistance, which is more Darwinian at that level.)
 

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