Wednesday, 08 April 2020

Being fussy eaters shows cuttlefish have big brains


Just as a human might eat less for dinner if they know dessert is on the menu, scientists say cuttlefish also prioritise their food.

The marine creatures love eating shrimp and if they know it's available in the evening, they will eat fewer crabs during the day.

Researchers say making decisions based on expectations reveals the cuttlefish's "complex cognitive abilities".

Some 29 European common cuttlefish were tested by scientists to establish the preference for shrimp over crab.

The team then served shrimp to the cuttlefish every evening before switching to other foods.


When served one shrimp every evening, the cuttlefish became more selective during the day and ate fewer crabs.

But when they were fed other foods in the evening, the cuttlefish adapted and ate more crabs during the day.

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Pauline Billard, a PhD student in the University of Cambridge's department of psychology and first author on the study, said: "It was surprising to see how quickly the cuttlefish adapted their eating behaviour - in only a few days they learned whether there was likely to be shrimp in the evening or not.

"This is a very complex behaviour and is only possible because they have a sophisticated brain."

Nicola Clayton, a professor at the University of Cambridge's department of psychology, who led the study, said: "This flexible foraging strategy shows that cuttlefish can adapt quickly to changes in their environment using previous experience.

"This discovery could provide a valuable insight into the evolutionary origins of such complex cognitive ability."

The researchers said the cuttlefish's large central nervous system helps it remember things that have happened and to use that information to modify their behaviour.

The study is published in the journal Biology Letters.

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