The Cuttlefish And Its Apparently Permanent Memories

The Cuttlefish And Its Apparently Permanent Memories
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Do you often recall having trouble memorizing even some of the most basic details of your life? Like when or what you ate last time?

However, in contrast to humans, cuttlefish seem to be the first-ever discovered animal that doesn’t present traces of memory function deterioration with the passing of time.

In humans, the phenomenon is known as episodic memory, the opposite of semantic memory, which helps us remember details we’ve learned in the past without going into advanced details.

Researchers described the cuttlefish’s “episodic-like” memory as being related to its mating behaviours.

Interestingly enough, cuttlefish live for a few years, making them convenient test subjects to compare memories over a lifespan.

According to recent experiments, it appears that the memories they make during the latter stages of their lives stay razor-sharp.

Alexandra Schnell, a comparative psychologist of the University of Cambridge in the UK, said:

“Cuttlefish can remember what they ate, where and when, and use this to guide their feeding decisions in the future.”

She also added that one curious detail to the cuttlefish is that they don’t lose that ability with age, in spite of other parts of their body being affected by the passing of time, with effects like muscle function loss and decreased appetite.

The team analyzed a total of 24 common cuttlefish (scientifically known as Sepia Officinalis), placing them through intense training where they learned when and where two variations of food were available – grass shrimp (the cuttlefish’s favourite) and king prawn.

Follow-up tests proved the cephalopods’ ability to remember the what-where-when elements of the feeding process, which is a specific trait of episodic-like memory, to grab their favourite food the next time it becomes available on the menu again.

The study was performed on two groups of cuttlefish, one composed of specimens between 10 and 12 months old (before the adult phase) and 22-24 months old (well into old age), and the results were shocking. Both groups required the same amount of time to memorize where to find their favourite food and made the same number of correct choices in the process of finding/picking it.

It is believed that the cuttlefish’s impressive memory may be tied to the species not mating until right at the end of their lives, according to the researchers.

One hypothesis suggests that, by remembering what they did to/with former partners, the cuttlefish are able to spread their genes more widely.

“The old cuttlefish were just as good as the younger ones in the memory task – in fact, many of the older ones did better in the test phase. We think this ability might help cuttlefish in the wild to remember who they mated with, so they don’t go back to the same partner,” Schnell explained.


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Jeffrey Olmsted

Jeffrey likes to write about health and fitness topics, being a champion fitness instructor in the past.

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