Motor Control, Reaction Time, Coordination In Wild & Captive Octopuses


Dec 25, 2020
Not including senescence and the well known resulting loss of coordination, balance, etc, is there any published research regarding differences in motor control, balance, reaction time, and overall coordination of wild vs. captive octopuses? I haven’t found anything during my brief search and I’m curious about this topic.

I understand that captive octopuses often have a period where they haven‘t quite mastered the effectiveness of their suction cups on tank walls. In many videos, you’ll notice a more pronounced jerkiness as they get stuck momentarily and they’ll often rock back and forth. However, after compiling nearly 300 videos of octopuses (I even searched in different languages haha) I’ve noticed clear differences in how the same species will move in the wild vs. in a tank. I’m curious if living in a confined space, foraging much shorter differences, using tank walls as an advantage when trapping prey, and using jet propulsion a fraction of the time (horizontally and vertically), adversely affects an octopus‘ stamina, coordination, motor control, balance, and response time? Do they lose a bit of their edge when they don’t have the same amount of physical exertion?

To those of you with personal experience keeping octopuses in captivity, what are your thoughts? And does anyone know of any studies that address this topic?


Staff member
May 30, 2000
This would be an interesting study -- if there is one, I haven't heard of it. With over 300 videos, you might be in the best position to conduct it! :smile: I imagine it could be hard to have controlled studies -- for example, for captive octopuses you'd probably need them to be bred so that you'd know exact ages, species, etc. You'd also want some level of consistency in tank parameters and configuration. And, studying the same behaviors in situ could be even more challenging, especially with species & age identification. ...but it's a plausible hypothesis for sure!


Larger Pacific Striped Octopus
Staff member
Jul 13, 2008
Very interesting! I’ve never noticed the difference in the movement of a newly captive octopus vs. one who’s familiar with the tank. What I have noticed is the difference between how different species move! Briareus move smoothly across the tank, whereas the macropus I had seemed to “shuffle.”