(ORDO NEWS) — It turned out that the skin of the suckers contains cells that, upon contact, impart the taste of their prey to the octopus.
Scientists have been struggling with this mystery for a long time, and only recently have they got some idea of how this amazing tactile mechanism works.
When octopuses move along the seabed, they explore it with thousands of independently moving, finger-like suckers. It turned out that in this case, octopuses use taste sensations, as well as unique sensory cells to create a kind of sensory map of the surrounding world.
Molecular biologist Lena van Giesen and her colleagues at Harvard University singled out chemosensory cells (those that detect molecules responsible for the sense of smell and taste) in the skin of the suckers of the California two-point octopus (Octopus bimaculoides).
These chemotactic cells with thin, branched ends can continuously generate signals, creating the so-called. tonic excitement. But their behavior depends on the nearest objects. Chemosensory cells can react to several odors, including chemicals in cephalopod ink, as well as warning chemicals released by potentially toxic prey.
“This is very beneficial for the octopus and helps it find prey hidden in crevices in the seabed or areas inaccessible to other senses,” explained molecular biologist Nicholas Bellono.
In the skin of the suckers, the team also found the expected and more familiar mechanosensory cells with short, branched ends. They are only triggered when the contact starts before the signal has exhausted itself (so-called phase pickup).
This type of signal allows octopuses to determine if they are touching inanimate objects or a writhing prey. In the case of a stationary object, the signal is cut off, and in the case of contact with a living creature, it will be triggered again and again in response to the victim’s movements.
“We found that octopuses explore their environment using normal movements and touch that change markedly upon contact with different sources of molecules that trigger chemo tactile receptors,” the researchers explain in their article.
For example, scientists have found that some chemotactic cells are activated in response to fish and crab extracts. But they suggest that, in addition to detecting prey, this ability to “feel the taste” can also provoke a rapid retreat from repulsive odors that hint at danger. For example, the ink of the octopus itself blocks the ability of its limbs to taste.
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