Cuttlefish know how to exercise self-control

Cephalopods and sprawling mollusks like octopus, squid, and squid are amazing animals. In the history of the evolution of living things they are very far from humans – the last ancestor we share lived 600 million years ago – however Their cognitive abilities They are closer to us than those found in many other animals with which we are closely related. Cuttlefish, for example, have different defense strategies for predators that identify prey by sight and for those who use their sense of smell, and They remember Where and when they ate certain things. In addition to, It says a new studyThey know how to exercise self-control: they refrain from eating something they like if they know that waiting will get a tastier reward.

To find out, a group of scientists who studied in the summer of 2018 six samples of Brown officinalisCommon squid in the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The six squid were exposed to a water version ofThe Stanford Marshmallow ExperimentPsychological test for delayed gratification in children aged 3 to 6 years For the first time in the 1970s. Study participants were offered a treatment (i Marshmallow They proved extremely popular) but they were also told that if they abstained they would have two later. About half of the children can wait.

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With squid, instead of marshmallows, A piece of shrimp meat and a piece of live shrimp. Squid are both valued as food, but prefer live shrimp. In the experiment, both the piece of shrimp and the live shrimp were placed inside transparent containers, but while the piece containing the piece of shrimp was always available to the squid, the piece containing the live shrimp did not open until after a while. Prior to the actual experiment, the cuttlefish was trained to recognize certain visual symbols on transparent containers, and to distinguish those that are immediately accessible from those that can only be accessed after a certain period of time. They were also trained to know that by eating the treat in one container, the other container would be removed as well.

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Knowing all these things, the squid was enabled to choose whether to eat a piece of shrimp meat on the spot or wait a little while for a live shrimp. All six of the squid tested were able to wait up to a minute and a half for the shrimp. This is similar to what other animals with advanced cognitive abilities such as parrots, crows and chimpanzees can wait.

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What remains to be understood is why animals such as squid evolved so that they could exercise self-control. It is an ability commonly found in social animal species, that whose members cooperate with each other and learn from each other to achieve their goals, which benefits the samples of the entire community. Chimpanzees, crows, and parrots are all social and long-lived animals – resistance to impulses for any length of time is helpful in strengthening social bonds that can lead to future services. This is why it is a reasonable ability from an evolutionary point of view, because it contributes to making those who possess it live better and longer. However, squids are not social animals, and they do not live long: their average life expectancy is about 2 years.

Why cephalopods have developed more complex cognitive abilities than those of most animals Although solitary and didn’t last long It is one of the most interesting aspects of these animals. Alexandra Schnell, one of the authors of the study on restraint for squid, To speculate That in this case their eating habits may be involved. Cuttlefish spend most of their time hiding, to defend themselves from predators, and only work occasionally to get food. The need to make these short hunting sessions more effective may have led to the development of self-control, since specimens wishing to wait for better opportunities can obtain more nutritious prey by reducing their exposure to predators.

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Not all animals understand the concept of “sometimes less.” Those who have learned to resist temptation in the present for greater gratification in the future, such as humans and chimpanzees, also do better on tests of general intelligence, says Schnell.

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Harold Manning

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